Community-Level Sports Group Participation and Older Individuals’ Depressive Symptoms

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Community-level group participation is a structural aspect of social capital that may have a contextual influence on an individual’s health. Herein, we sought to investigate a contextual relationship between community-level prevalence of sports group participation and depressive symptoms in older individuals.


We used data from the 2010 Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES), a population-based, cross-sectional study of individuals aged ≥65 years without long-term care needs in Japan. Overall, 74,681 participants in 516 communities were analyzed. Depressive symptoms were diagnosed as the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale score ≥5. Participation in a sports group 1 day/month or more often was defined as “participation.” For this study, we applied two-level multilevel Poisson regression analysis stratified by sex, calculated prevalence ratios (PRs), and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).


Overall, 17,420 individuals (23.3%) had depressive symptoms, and 16,915 (22.6%) participated in a sports group. Higher prevalence of community-level sports group participation had a statistically significant relationship with a lower likelihood of depressive symptoms (male, PR: 0.89, 95% CI: 0.85–0.92; female, PR: 0.96, 95% CI: 0.92–0.99, estimated by 10% of participation proportion) after adjusting for individual-level sports group participation, age, diseases, family form, alcohol, smoking, education, equivalent income, and population density. We found statistically significant cross-level interaction terms in males only (PR: 0.86, 95% CI: 0.77–0.95).


We found a contextual preventive relationship between community-level sports group participation and depressive symptoms in older individuals. Therefore, promoting sports groups in a community may be effective as a population-based strategy for the prevention of depression in older individuals. Furthermore, the benefit may favor male sports group participants.

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