Is "busy" Always Better? Time-Use Activities and Depressive Symptoms among Older Mexican Adults

Sirena Gutierrez, Sadaf Arefi Milani, Rebeca Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: Depression among older Mexican adults is underrecognized and of increasing concern due to its association with comorbidities including cognitive and functional impairments. Prior studies have found an association between low involvement levels in social activities and depression. We aimed to examine the association of time-use activities and depressive symptomatology by sex. Research Design and Methods: We used data from the 2012 and 2015 waves of the Mexican Health and Aging Study. Participants aged 60 and older who had low or no depressive symptoms in 2012 were included in these analyses (N = 4,309). Factor analysis was used to group activities and logistic regression models were used to assess the association of baseline time use with depressive symptomatology in 2015. Results: Among those with low or no depressive symptomatology in 2012, 21.0% reported elevated symptoms (5+) in 2015. Those with elevated depressive symptoms were more likely to be women, older, lower educated, and with at least one activity of daily living limitation. Four time-use domains emerged from the factor analysis including hobbies and indoor activities, volunteering, caregiving, and working. The hobbies and indoor activities domain was associated with lower odds of elevated symptoms for men and women (odds ratio [OR]: 0.76, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.61-0.96; and OR: 0.75, 95% CI: 0.61-0.91, respectively). Additionally, the volunteer and community activities domain was associated with lower odds of depressive symptoms for women (OR: 0.72, 95% CI: 0.58-0.89) and men (OR: 0.77, 95% CI: 0.60-0.99). Discussion and Implications: Understanding how older Mexicans distribute their time among different activities and its associations with depressive symptoms can help guide policy and sex-specific interventions for psychological well-being. Certain domains had lower odds for elevated depressive symptomatology; future work should examine this association in other countries as well as the context of the built environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberigaa030
JournalInnovation in Aging
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2020


  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Mexico
  • Physical activity
  • Sedentary behavior
  • Social engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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