The Mental Health Benefits of Acquiring a Home in Older Age: A Fixed-Effects Analysis of Older Americans

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Abstract

Homeownership is consistently associated with better mental health, but whether becoming a homeowner in later in life has positive psychological benefits has not been examined. We assessed whether acquiring a home after 50 is associated with depression in a representative sample of older Americans. We used individual fixed-effects models based on data from 20,524 respondents aged ≥50 from the Health and Retirement Study and interviewed biannually between 1993 and 2010. Depressive symptoms were measured using the 8-item Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale. Controlling for confounders, becoming a homeowner in later life predicted a decline in depressive symptoms in the same year (β = -0.0768, 95% CI [confidence interval]: -0.152, -0.007). The association remained significant after two years (β = -0.0556, 95% CI: -0.134 to -0.001) but weakened afterwards. Buying a home for reasons associated with positive characteristics of the new house or neighborhood drove this association (β = -0.426, 95% CI: -0.786, -0.066), while acquiring a home for reasons associated with characteristics of the previous home or neighbourhood, the desire to be closer to relatives, downsizing or upsizing did not predict mental health improvements. Findings suggest that there are small but significant benefits for mental health associated with acquiring a home in older age.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Early online date11 Aug 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Aug 2017

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