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Walkable Neighborhood Linked to Less Depression in Elders

Walker-friendly environment appears to affect mental health of older men

WEDNESDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Older men who live in areas that are walking-friendly are less prone to depression than those who do not, according to a study in the April issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Ethan M. Berke, M.D., M.P.H., of Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, N.H., and colleagues conducted a study of 740 men and women aged 65 and above who had been living in the same home for at least two years. The subjects were assessed for symptoms of depression. Data on the walkability of their neighborhoods were used to predict the likelihood of walking at least 150 minutes a week.

After adjusting for potential confounding factors such as income, smoking status, age, ethnicity and chronic disease, the study revealed that men who lived in areas most accessible on foot were less likely to be depressed. However, there was no such association for women.

The results pose several questions that merit further study, the authors concluded: "Should clinicians direct older patients to live, if possible, in more-walkable areas? Should communities build nursing homes, senior centers or assisted living facilities in more-walkable areas? The findings suggest that future research should aim to determine whether community interventions based on characteristics of the built environment might improve health," they wrote.

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