Marital status, gender, and depression: analysis of the baseline survey of the Korean Longitudinal Study of Ageing (KLoSA).
Marital status is a robust predictor of health outcomes in Western populations. However, data from Asian cultures remain sparse, and some studies suggest marked gender differences in the health benefits of marriage among Asian populations. We investigated the influence of marital status on depressive symptoms in older adult Koreans. Data were obtained from a sample of adults aged 45 to 85 years (4016 men, 5003 women) who participated in the 2006 cross-sectional baseline survey of the Korean Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Depressive symptoms were measured by the 10-item Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale. A multiple regression model was used to examine the association between marital status and depressive symptoms, controlling for socioeconomic status, living arrangement, disability, and number of chronic diseases. In women aged 75 to 85 years, no significant differences were found between women who were married versus those who were widowed, divorced, or separated with regard to depressive symptoms. These findings were driven by increasing depressive symptoms among married women with age. Whereas divorced and widowed men in the sample reported higher rates of depressive symptoms than did married men, the difference between married vs. widowed/divorced women converged as they aged. This pattern of depressive symptoms by gender and life stage may reflect the distinctive influence of the Asian context on relations between men and women, such as traditional gender roles and patriarchal norms for older generation.