Being Sardinian puts a smile on the face of the elderly

May 22, 2014

Residents of the Italian island of Sardinia are known for their longevity. Now, a new study also shows that elderly Sardinians are less depressed and generally are in a better mental frame of mind than peers living elsewhere. The study, led by Maria Chiara Fastame and Maria Pietronilla Penna of the University of Cagliari in Italy and Paul Hitchcott from the Southampton Solent University in UK, is published in Springer's journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.

Various tests to measure the mental state and capacity of were performed on 191 cognitively healthy native-born residents between the ages of 60 years and 99 years old. They were recruited from the of Lombardy in Northern Italy, from the Sardinian city of Sassari and the agro-pastoral villages of Bargagia and Ogliastra on the Mediterranean island. These areas were chosen because of the high prevalence of centenarians who live on the isle. Fastame and colleagues showed in a previous study that residents from Ogliastra enjoy greater levels of psychological well-being than those of Lombardy. Her team now wanted to find out if depression among the was influenced by factors such as gender, marital status, age, lifestyle choices, levels of brain functioning and the environment.

Findings from the latest study highlight the effect that one's region of residence has on psychological well-being. It was noted that the Sardinian way of life trumps all else, with older Sardinians being less depressed and experiencing of personal satisfaction and coping strategies than is true for the norm. In contrast, the elderly from Northern Italy struggled with depression.

These findings are ascribed to the fact that elderly people from Sardinia, and especially those from Ogliastra, are physically active until late in life and feel more valued, respected and supported by younger generations. In turn, elderly Sardinians living in Sassari benefit from higher levels of wealth and physical health. They have nearby, and are involved in ongoing social, recreational and cultural activities.

More symptoms of depression were noted among women than men; and city dwellers reported more symptoms of depression than those from rural areas. Also, very old participants between 75 and 99 years old tended to be more depressed than those between 65 and 74 years old.

The researchers expressed worry about the marked signs of depression noted among residents of Northern Italy. They advise that psychology-based intervention programs be implemented to help strengthen the self-image and self-esteem of the elderly living in these areas, to ultimately improve the quality of their later life and to ward off feelings of depression.

"Positive ageing is more evident in Sardinia, especially in rural areas, where the maintenance of an adequate social status and physical activity help guarantee a positive level of mental health in later life," conclude Fastame and her colleagues.

Explore further: Improving the quality of life for dependent elderly adults

More information: Fastame, M.C. et al (2014). Mental Health in Late Adulthood: What Can Preserve It? Applied Research in Quality of Life. DOI: 10.1007/s11482-014-9323-5

Related Stories

Improving the quality of life for dependent elderly adults

May 19, 2014
Western populations are aging. As a result, there is an increase in elderly adults living in specialised institutions. A 'paradoxical side effect' of this is a feeling of solitude and isolation. Can information and computer ...

Exercise proves to be ineffective against care home depression

May 2, 2013
Researchers at the University of Warwick and Queen Mary, University of London have shown that exercise is not effective in reducing burden of depression among elderly care home residents.

Older Chinese adults with dementia and depression have a significantly higher risk of mortality

March 14, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Older adults with dementia and depression living in rural China have a significantly higher risk of mortality than their urban counterparts, according to a new report by UK and Chinese scientists.

More years to life and life to years through increased motivation for an active life

November 1, 2011
Regular physical activity is associated with a lower risk of suffering depression in old age. This is shown by one of the largest studies on elderly Europeans to have been carried out, by researchers at the University of ...

Risk table acts as depression crystal ball

January 10, 2014
A risk table comprising modifiable risk factors associated with depression may potentially help health practitioners to predict the probability of depressive symptoms in elderly men later in life, a new study has found.

Women in large urban areas at higher risk of postpartum depression

August 6, 2013
Women living in large urban centres in Canada with more than 500 000 inhabitants were at higher risk of postpartum depression than women in other areas, according to a study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended for you

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Infants know what we like best, study finds

July 27, 2017
Behind the chubby cheeks and bright eyes of babies as young as 8 months lies the smoothly whirring mind of a social statistician, logging our every move and making odds on what a person is most likely to do next, suggests ...

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.