Association between social isolation and depression onset among older adults: A cross-national longitudinal study in England and Japan

Taiji Noguchi, Masashige Saito, Jun Aida, Noriko Cable, Taishi Tsuji, Shihoko Koyama, Takaaki Ikeda, Ken Osaka, Katsunori Kondo

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Objective Social isolation is a risk factor for depression in older age. However, little is known regarding whether its impact varies depending on country-specific cultural contexts regarding social relationships. The present study examined the association of social isolation with depression onset among older adults in England, which has taken advanced measures against social isolation, and Japan, a super-aged society with a rapidly increasing number of socially isolated people. Design Prospective longitudinal study. Setting We used data from two ongoing studies: the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES). Participants Older adults aged ≥65 years without depression at baseline were followed up regarding depression onset for 2 years (2010/2011-2012/2013) for the ELSA and 2.5 years (2010/2011-2013) for the JAGES. Primary outcome measure Depression was assessed with eight items from the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale for the ELSA and Geriatric Depression Scale for the JAGES. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to evaluate social isolation using multiple parameters (marital status; interaction with children, relatives and friends; and social participation). Results The data of 3331 respondents from the ELSA and 33 127 from the JAGES were analysed. Multivariable logistic regression analysis demonstrated that social isolation was significantly associated with depression onset in both countries. In the ELSA, poor interaction with children was marginally associated with depression onset, while in the JAGES, poor interaction with children and no social participation significantly affected depression onset. Conclusions Despite variations in cultural background, social isolation was associated with depression onset in both England and Japan. Addressing social isolation to safeguard older adults' mental health must be globally prioritised.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere045834
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 18


  • Epidemiology
  • Geriatric medicine
  • Old age psychiatry
  • Public health
  • Social medicine


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