Sex Differences in Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms Among Older Taiwanese: The Contribution of Stressors and Social Factors


Objectives: We assessed female–male differences in depressive symptoms among older Taiwanese and quantified the contribution of sex differences in exposure and response to selected covariates in explaining the gap.

Methods: Using data from six survey waves over 18 years for a nationally representative cohort of 4049 Taiwanese aged 60+, we employed growth curve analysis to model individual-level trajectories of depressive symptoms across age.

Results: Among older Taiwanese, women's disadvantage with respect to social position and employment accounted for about 40% of the sex difference in depressive symptoms. Sex differences in decision control and exposure to widowhood and financial decline played surprisingly little role. Although we found no evidence that the effects of marriage, recent widowhood or recent child death varied by sex, living apart from one's children appeared to be more detrimental for women than for men in this society. Moreover, the effect of living with children depended on the arrangement: living with an unmarried son was more strongly associated with depressive symptoms than living with a married son and daughter-in-law.

Conclusion: Sex differentials in social position and employment are major contributors to the sex difference in depressive symptoms among older Taiwanese, yet sex differences in exposure or response to selected stressors appear to play little role. Differential vulnerabilities to particular living arrangements may also contribute to women's excess psychological distress, although more research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms by which living arrangements influence depressive symptoms in Taiwan.

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Last updated on 07/13/2018