Receptive cultural engagement (e.g. attending theaters and museums) can reduce depression in older adults. However, whether specific participatory leisure activities are associated with lower rates of depression remains unknown. We aimed to test whether engagement in a diverse range of leisure activities, all of which could involve artistic or creative elements, was associated with concurrent and subsequent depression.
Using longitudinal data from 19,134 participants aged over 50 in the Health and Retirement Study, engagement in leisure activities was measured every four years, and depression every two years, between 2008 and 2016. Leisure activities included: reading books, magazines, or newspapers; writing; baking/cooking something special; making clothes, knitting, or embroidery (sewing); working on hobbies/projects; going to sport, social, or other clubs; and attending non-religious organization meetings. A score of three or more on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale indicated depression. We fitted population-averaged panel data models using generalized estimating equations with a logit link.
Engaging in some leisure activities, such as clubs, hobbies/projects, and baking/cooking was associated with reduced depression, independent of confounders. Concurrently, spending time on hobbies/projects (monthly OR = 0.80, 95% CI = 0.72-0.88; weekly OR = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.73-0.89) and clubs (monthly OR = 0.85, 95% CI = 0.77-0.94; weekly OR = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.69-0.88) was associated with lower odds of depression versus not engaging. Longitudinally, the odds of depression two years later were reduced amongst people engaging in weekly baking/cooking (OR = 0.85, 95% CI = 0.75-0.95), hobbies (OR = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.71-0.92), and clubs (OR = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.71-0.94). Writing, reading, sewing, and attending non-religious organizations were not consistently associated with depression.
Engagement in some leisure activities is associated with reduced odds of depression. We should consider how older adults can be supported to actively participate in leisure activities as health-promoting behaviors.

Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.