Older men without partners who don’t own their own homes are at increased risk of depression, according to a study that says targeting mental health programs at this group could be an effective community‐based intervention.

Dr Saman Khalatbari-Soltani

The study, published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing, looked at 910 men with an average age of 80 from a 2013 follow up to the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project.

It found that older men who are not home owners are more likely to report depressive symptoms, with depression the only health measure to show a statistically significant association with home ownership.

The other indicators included anxiety, frailty, morbidity and self-rated health.

The researchers say this appears related to higher divorce and poorer perceived social support.

Home ownership a determinant of health

Lead researcher Saman Khalatbari-Soltani, a post doctoral research fellow with the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, says home ownership is declining in Australia, and this is being seen in older people as well.

Australia also has relatively low pension rates and rental assistance compared to other OECD countries.

“This means that older people who do not own their own home are at higher risk of experiencing relative poverty,” she told Community Care Review.

“Owning a home is also an important social determinant of health.”

Previous studies have looked at the relationship between housing and health but they were published in the late 1990s and didn’t have conclusive results for older adults.

The studies also concentrated on housing quality rather than housing ownership.

“Because most of the studies are mainly looking at women we decided to look at this relationship among men,” Dr Khalatbari-Soltani said.

“The main result from our analysis was that we found older men who do not own their own home are more likely to report depressive symptoms.

“By looking in more detail we found that this higher rate seems to be related to the higher rate of divorce and poor perceived social support.”

The report didn’t speculate whether there was a need for early intervention to enable men to become more resilient to cope with life after the loss of a partner.

However, it says the research holds policy implications for the provision of support systems for vulnerable men.

“Lack of home ownership, divorce and poor social support are important domains of vulnerability in older men that could identify those more likely to benefit from targeted mental health, social support and community-based interventions,” the paper concludes.

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