Marital experiences and depressive symptoms among older adults in rural South Africa


Elyse A. Jennings, Chido Chinogurei, and Leslie Adams. 2022. “Marital experiences and depressive symptoms among older adults in rural South Africa.” SSM - Mental Health, 2, Pp. 100083.


This paper advances the understanding of how marital transitions may influence mental health by investigating these associations among a population of rural, Black South Africans aged 40+ that was directly impacted by apartheid. Using two waves of data from 4,176 men and women in Health and Aging in Africa: A Longitudinal Study of an INDEPTH Community in South Africa (HAALSI), we investigated associations between marital experiences and depressive symptoms, by gender, and explored whether economic resources is a moderator of these associations. We found that experiencing a marital dissolution was associated with more depressive symptoms than remaining married for both men and women. We also found that men, but not women, report greater depressive symptoms if they remained separated/divorced, remained widowed, or remained never married between waves. We found no evidence that a decline in wealth moderated the impact of marital dissolution on depressive symptoms for women or men. These findings suggest that the documented benefits of marriage for mental health, and differences by gender in those benefits, may extend to older, rural South Africans, despite the unique experiences of this population.