Methods: We use data from the Health and Retirement Study and analyze three baseline and follow up cohorts age 50 and older from 2006-2010, 2008-2012, and 2010-2014. We conducted cross-sectional and longitudinal predictors of depression. For the longitudinal model, we restrict the sample to adults not experiencing depression at baseline (determined using the CES_D scale) and predict the onset of depression at follow up when including a number of risk and protective factors for depression, including loneliness (UCLA 3-item version). We further cluster the standard errors to control for repeated observations across the cohorts investigated.
Results: The cross-sectional analysis (n= 14,153) indicates that immigrants experience 1.57 increased odds of depression, when controlling for a wealth of sociodemographic (age, age squared sex, income, education, number of children, marital status) and health factors (chronic disease, disability status, inability to complete activities of daily living (ADL), 2 + chronic impairments, and report of experiencing of pain). The longitudinal analysis (n=973) of predictors of depression onset among non-depressed immigrant adults identified loneliness (OR=1.38) and having 2 + chronic impairments (OR=1.37) as significantly predictive of the onset of future depression among aging immigrants.
Implications: Prior research indicates that older immigrants experience higher rates of depression despite physical health advantages. Our results first confirmed this international finding in the context of the US, as being an immigrant was found to increase the likelihood of experiencing depression. Second, our analysis contributes to understandings of how depression manifests in this population, and points to loneliness and chronic health conditions as likely drivers of depression onset among older immigrant adults not experiencing depression. The results suggest that interventions designed to reduce loneliness among immigrant adults could decrease rates of depression and further reduce mental health disparities among immigrant populations.