The gender gap in depressive symptoms among elders in the United States and Japan: Social support, coresidence and somatic health as mediating factors

Andrew D Tiedt, Fordham University


Cross-national research on gender and aging has discussed a persistent gender gap in depressive symptoms among elders, indicating that women report more frequent symptoms than men. In light of recent attention given to both depression and elder care issues in a global context, this dissertation examined the prevalence of depressive symptoms among elder men and women in the United States and Japan. Both nations are facing complications related to aging populations and have similar economic foundations, educational systems and representative governments. Yet the cultural underpinnings of household arrangements and family support obligations are distinct. The analyses used two waves of the Nihon University Japanese Longitudinal Study of Aging (NUJLSOA) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to analyze the conditions resulting in the expression of depressive symptoms. One prominent cultural difference between nations is the persistence of intergenerational coresidence among elders and younger generations in Japan, despite more recent shifts in preference towards independent living. This dissertation posited that changing attitudes concerning filial obligations would result in more frequent depressive symptoms among Japanese women due to increased instances of conflict between coresiding elder women and daughters-in-law. Next, the dissertation posited reductions in the gender gap in depressive symptoms over time due to elder men transitioning to retirement, widowhood and disability. The analyses revealed that household relationships were more prominent as predictors of depressive symptoms in Japan than the United States. This was attributed to the persistence of filial piety. There was also evidence of the increased importance of gender in terms of late life transitions such as marital dissolution in Japan, while there was less variation in the correlates of depressive symptoms by gender in the United States. Coresidence proved to be both a buffer and aggravator of depressive symptoms among Japanese women, while coresidence was likely to buffer male mental health in either nation. However, there was evidence that living with children and receiving instrumental support exacerbated depressive symptoms among American men. These findings suggest the importance of within-gender as well as between-gender analytical approaches in order to interpret the role of culture in influencing contemporary family support relationships.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Clinical psychology|Demography

Recommended Citation

Tiedt, Andrew D, "The gender gap in depressive symptoms among elders in the United States and Japan: Social support, coresidence and somatic health as mediating factors" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3474150.