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Elderly women living near primary schools less likely to be depressed: Japan study

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CHIBA -- Elderly women living near elementary schools are less likely to develop depression, but a similar correlation is not found among elderly men, a study on the relation between the distance from one's home to a primary school and depression in senior residents has shown.

    The research conducted by Chiba University's Center for Preventive Medical Sciences targeted 131,871 people aged 65 and older across Japan who require no assistance in everyday activities including eating, moving around and going to the bathroom.

    The center analyzed the subjects by dividing them into four groups: those who live (1) less than 400 meters from the nearest elementary school, (2) between 400 meters and 799 meters away, (3) between 800 meters and 1,199 meters away, and (4) at least 1,200 meters away.

    Of the study subjects, 29,781 people, or 22.6%, showed signs of depression. Compared to the No. 1 group, the women in group Nos. 3 and 4 had a 1.07 times higher risk of developing depression. For the No. 2 group the risk was 1.06 times higher than that of the No. 1 group. Meanwhile, results showed no connection between the distance from one's home to an elementary school and depression among men in the same age group.

    According to Megumi Nishida, visiting research fellow at the center, the detailed mechanism behind the study results is yet to be determined. At the same time, studies have shown that intergenerational interactions with local children positively affect the elderly.

    Nishida speculated that older women are more likely than their male counterparts to have participated in activities at elementary schools in the past, and "they might be more familiar with primary schools and may feel something when they see a school." She continued, "Women tend to show stronger interest in children (than men do), and by living nearby (an elementary school) they are likely to have encounters with children."

    (Japanese original by Yoshitaka Yamamoto, Chiba Bureau)

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