A research comparing mental health and levels of social support in women who stopped drive versus who continued to drive has said that in older women, stopping driving is linked to depression, but the negative mental effects can be buffered by participating in social activities and maintaining social contact.
The research is published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.
Maintaining mental health important
University of Queensland School of Psychology Professor Nancy Pachana said as the people aged, it was important for them to maintain their mental health as depression was linked to a poor physical health, decline in quality of life which brings declination in cognitive function with increased disease and death risks. “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,” Dr Pachana said.
Better social contacts helps better mental health
The researchers, over a period of nine years followed 4000 women in their late 70s and 80s who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH). Women who stopped driving reported poorer mental health. But despite stopping driving, those who maintained their social contacts reported better levels of mental health. Maintaining social contacts means staying involved in social activities such as sporting events, religious services, theatre, card games and such alike activities.
Connecting with friends, family helps
“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,” Dr Pachana said. Among the steps to reduce social isolation include connecting with friends and family through regular phone calls, learning the public transport system, car-pooling with friends and family, talking to neighbours, being active on the internet, or even taking advantage of courtesy bus systems.