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Older women who stop driving can lead to depression: Aussie researchers

( Xinhua ) Updated: 2016-09-21 15:13:55

Australian researchers have found that older women who stop driving are more likely to suffer from depression but are able to ward off the feeling by maintaining a socially active lifestyle.

University of Queensland (UQ) School of Psychology Professor Nancy Pachana said in a statement on Wednesday that it was important for older people to maintain their mental health as they aged, because depression is linked to a decline in quality of life and to poor physical health, d

eclines in cognitive function, increased disease and death.

"Older women are more likely to stop driving and more likely to stop driving prematurely, and are also more vulnerable to depression than older men," Pachana said.

The research undertaken by UQ, University of Newcastle and funded by the Australian Federal Department of Health had compared mental health and levels of social support in women who continued to drive versus those who stopped driving.

Over a period of nine years the researchers followed 4,000 women in their late 70s and 80s participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH).

Women who stopped driving reported poorer mental health. Those who stopped driving but maintained their social contacts such as staying involved in social activities such as the theatre, religious services, sporting events, card games and the like reported better levels of mental health.

"There's a sense of losing control and independence when you stop driving so it's important to have social support and take action to put alternatives in place before you or a loved one has to stop," Pachana said.

She said steps to reduce social isolation could include talking to neighbours, connecting with friends and family through regular phone calls, being active on the Internet, learning the public transport system, taking advantage of courtesy bus systems or car-pooling with friends and family.

Driving cessation programs such as the CarFreeMe by UQ helps instruct older drivers about how to stay mobile via public transport, and can assist in maintaining access to social activities.

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