Employment and occupation effects on depressive symptoms in older Americans: Does working past age 65 protect against depression?

Sharon L. Christ, David J. Lee, Lora E Fleming, William G. LeBlanc, Kristopher L. Arheart, Katherine Chung-Bridges, Alberto J. Caban, Kathryn E. McCollister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objectives. This article examines the effects of work status, occupational sector, and occupation type on depressive symptoms in older Americans. We partially controlled for the healthy worker selection effect by including disability as a predictor of both work status and depressive symptoms. Methods. We analyzed a nationally representative sample of 23,247 respondents aged 65 to 88 from the National Health Interview Survey pooled over 1997 to 2000. We used structural equation models with latent variables to assess relationships between work/occupation and depressive symptoms. Results. Older Americans who work had lower levels of depressive symptoms as compared to older nonworkers. Membership in several worker groups, generally higher status occupations, protected against depressive symptoms. After controlling for disability, the difference in level of depressive symptoms for workers versus nonworkers did not persist. However, workers in specific occupational sectors and types reported different levels of depressive symptoms even when we controlled for disability. Discussion. The mental health benefit of working, among persons aged 65 and older, may be due to the healthy worker effect. However, the particular job sector in which older workers are employed matters. Socioeconomic status and financial versus personal motivations for working are potentially important explanations for differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S399-S403
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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