Journal of Mental Health and Aging

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Research Article - Journal of Mental Health and Aging (2021) Volume 5, Issue 5

Depression: Determinants that influence the mental health of older people (60 years +) in Botswana.

Tiro Bright Motsamai, Magen Mhaka Mutepfa*

Department of Psychology, University of Botswana, Botswana

*Corresponding Author:
Magen Mhaka Mutefa
Department of Psychology
University of Botswana
E-mail: [email protected]

Accepted on June 04, 2021

Citation: Motsamai TB, Mutepfa MM. Depression: Determinants that influence the mental health of older people (60 years +) in Botswana. 2021:5(4):1-7.

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The current study explored the prevalence of depression in older people in Botswana (60 years and above). Key determinants such as socio-demographics, individual factors (e.g., selfefficacy), health-related factors (e.g., chronic ailments), social-assets (e.g., social engagements), and environmental assets (e.g., leisure) that influence depression were also investigated. The questions of interest were:

What is the prevalence of depression and social impairment among older people in Botswana? What socio-demographic, health-related factors, clinical variables, individual, social, and environmental assets are associated with depression?


Depression, Social impairment, Mental health, Older people, Stress.


Universally, there are more than 264 million people of all ages suffering from depression [1]. The collaborators revealed that depression contributes significantly to the overall global burden of disease and/or is also a primary source of disability globally. Depression was highly correlated to social impairment [2], thus the affected individual may suffer immensely by becoming dysfunctional at all levels (e.g., at work, at school, and in the family), particularly in old age. The impact may be higher in older people because they will be grappling with aging issues, for instance, dementias. Depression can also culminate in suicide at its worst.

Although there are known, effective treatments for mental disorders, 76 to 85% of people in low- and middle-income countries are reported to receive no treatment for mental disorders despite the availability of recognized, effective treatments [3]. Obstacles to effective care include erroneous assessment, insufficient resources (including trained health-care providers), and social stigma associated with mental disorders [1,3]. The foregoing impediments can only be resolved if the incidence of depression and factors that influence depression are known to effect appropriate intervention.

A meta-analysis of research of older people aged 75 years and above in South Africa revealed the prevalence of depression was 40% [4]. The authors also found that females, being single and poor self-perceived health were meaningfully associated with higher levels of depression. Another South African study revealed that depression rates were 25.2% in urban areas and 27% in rural areas [5]. The fore-going authors also posited that due to the adverse effects resulted from a decline in functioning (social impairment), awareness of decreased health, and frequent use of medical facilities, depression was recognized as a problem in the older population. Additionally, found the prevalence of depression among 50+-year-olds to be 42.5% in South Africa. Additionally, being female, receiving a government grant, residing in an urban area and care-giving were meaningfully associated with any depressive incidence.

Furthermore, respondents with a depressive incident were 2–3 times more likely to report poor health perceptions.

In another South African study [6], 18.3% of the population were receiving treatment for depression, 16.7% were doubtful they had depression and 65% did not suffer from depression. In the same study, depression was associated with work engagement, burnout, and stress-related wellbeing. In another study in Nepal by Simkhada R, et al. [7], lack of education, poor physical health, lack of social engagements and support, and wellbeing were significantly associated with depression in older adults. In the afore-mentioned sample, 27.7% had mild depression.

Tomlinson M, et al. [8] found a lifetime prevalence of depression of 9.7% and a prevalence of 4.9%, 12 months before the interview in a study in South Africa. The prevalence was higher among females and those with lower levels of education. The authors reported that more than 90% of the participants with depression had overall role impairment, suggesting an association between depression and social impairment. In another study in the Netherlands patients with comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders showed the most severe social impairments, followed by depressed and anxious patients (P <0.001).

Furthermore, a study conducted in Iran among older adults living in rural areas by Zare N, et al. [9] revealed a prevalence rate of depression of 52.3% and 7.7% for social impairment. In another study conducted in Iran by 37.8% of the older sample reported social impairment and 45% had depression. The fore-going authors also found that gender, education level, and marital status were associated with poor mental health. With regards to social determinants, research done in Thailand revealed that age, physical health status, presence of chronic disease, family relationships, and membership or active participation in a civic or social group were associated with the mental health of older people [10].

Goals of the study

The current study explored the prevalence of depression in older people in Botswana (60 years and above). Key determinants such as socio-demographics, individual factors (e.g., selfefficacy), health-related factors (e.g., chronic ailments), socialassets (e.g., social engagements), and environmental assets (e.g., leisure) that influence depression were also investigated. The questions of interest were:

What is the prevalence of depression and social impairment among older people in Botswana?

What socio-demographic, health-related factors, clinical variables, individual, social, and environmental assets are associated with depression?


Research design and participants

The method section was described in detail in a previous paper [2]. A cross-sectional design that used district stratification was adopted to collect data among older people aged 60+ years (N=378; age: M=71.8, SD=9.1). Data were collected from four districts after seeking permission from the district council offices. A snowballing technique was used to recruit older participants from low, medium, and high-income areas-rural and urban. The participants were notified that participation was voluntary, confidential, and anonymous. Permission to undertake the study was given by the Office of Research Development at the University of Botswana (No: UBR/RES/IRB/BIO/079) and the Ministry of Health and Wellness. The informed consent form was discussed and signed by all participants. A few older people declined to participate citing different reasons, and the response rate was 98%.


An interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect data for the study. The questionnaire included sociodemographics, health-related factors, individual, social, and environmental asset questions, and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) (clinical variables questionnaire). Socio-demographic variables included whether the older people were fostering orphans or non-orphans, the number of people in the household, and others. Health-related factors included the presence of ailments/chronic conditions, health insurance status, self-perceived health, use of healthcare services (past 12 months), health service utilized, and others. Individual assets included self-esteem, and mastery, and social networks inclusive of support and social engagements.

The PHQ-9 is a self-report measure that was developed by Kroenke K, et al. [11]. The scale assesses depression severity and is also a diagnostic tool. The PHQ-9 has nine items, for example, feeling down, depressed, or hopeless, little interest or pleasure in doing things, poor appetite or overeating, which were indicated on a scale of: not at all (scored 0), several days (scored 1), more than half the days (scored 2), or nearly every day (scored 3). Total scores range from 0 to 27 and 1-4 indicating minimal depression, 5-9 indicating mild depression, 10-14 indicating moderate depression, 15-19 indicating moderately severe depression, and 20-27 indicating severe depression. The scale has an additional item that taps into social functioning based on the participants responses to any of the nine items.

The GAD-7 [12] assessed anxiety severity. The measure has seven items and contains statements such as “Feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge” Trouble relaxing” with answers ranging from 1 (Not at all sure) to 4 (Nearly every day). The total scores on the GAD-7 range from 0 to 21, with scores of 10 or higher representing a need for more screening, since they signify unacceptable levels of anxiety. The GAD-7 also has an additional item that taps on social impairment based on the participant’s response to any of the 7 items. The remainder of the scales were described in detail in a previous paper on anxiety and somatization [e.g., WHOQOL-BREF, resilience scale, and others [2].

Data analysis

Descriptive statistics analyzed frequency distributions, means, and standard deviations. Hierarchical regression analysis determined the amount of variance contributed towards depression above and beyond previous predictor variables. Hierarchical regression was used because the assumptions of normality and homoscedasticity were met after log transformation. Six (6) models were run and the significance level applied was p ≤ 0.05 (*) and p ≤ 0.001 (**). Data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software (version 25.0).


Descriptive statistics

Table 1 presents the personal background of the participants [2]. The total sample was 378, of which 72.1% were females while 27.9% were males. Eighty-one percent of the participants had a low educational level. Regarding depression, 7.4% of the participants reported depression. Almost 21% were socially impaired. For the rest of the demographic and clinical variables (Table 1).

Variables Frequency Percent/Prevalence per 100
60-70 191 50.8
71+ 185 49.2
Female 272 72.1
Male 105 27.9
Marital Status
Married 120 31.8
Widowed 134 35.5
Divorced 18 4.8
Separated 4 1.1
Never married 101 26.8
Place of Residence
Rural 189 50.1
Urban low 110 29.2
Urban middle 31 8.2
Urban high 47 12.5
Educational Level
Low 303 80.8
High 72 19.2
Low 309 83.1
High 63 16.9
Not spiritual 74 19.6
Spiritual 304 80.4
Symptoms 28 7.4
No symptoms 348 92.5
Social Impairment
Symptoms 78 20.6
No symptoms 298 79.4
Symptoms 70 18.6
No symptoms 306 81.4
Somatic Symptoms
Symptoms 95 25.3
No symptoms 281 74.7

Table 1. Socio-demographic factors and clinical variables frequencies (Adapted from Mhaka-Mutepfa et al, 2020)

Predicting depression from demographic factors and individual factors

In model 1, only income earned, predicted depression by explaining 5% of the overall variance in depression [F (3,363)=8.6; p <0.001] (Table 2). In model 2, education, income earned, resilience, and self-esteem were significantly associated with depression. Resilience and self-esteem had the most predictive power. Age, gender, marital status, and mastery had no significant association with depression. The second model accounted for a significant amount of variance above and beyond the variance accounted for by model 1(demographics), ΔR2=17.8%; p<0.001.

Predictive Factors Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5 Model 6 ∆R2 R2
Age .02 .02 .03 -.07 -.1 -.05   .05
Education -.1 -.1* -.8 -.06 -.7 -.1    
Income Earned -.2* -.2* -.05 -.05 .3* -.01    
Individual Factors
Resilience   -.2** -.2** -.2** -.7* -.18** .178 .23
self-esteem   -.2** -.2** -.08 -.1 .07    
Mastery   .1 -.1 -.02 .4 .03    
Health Related Factors
Self-Perceived Health     .2** .1 .1 .04 .055 .28
On Medication     0.8 -.04 .03 .01    
Satisfaction with Health Services     .01 .02 0.4 .01    
Use of Health Services     .08 .005 .07 .05    
Measured Clinical Variables
Anxiety       .02** .02* .14* .137 .42
Somatic Symptoms       .17* .16* .15*    
Social impairment       .16* .18* .17*    
Social- Assets
Social Engagements         .03 .03 .02 .44
Support         -.04 -.26    
QOL         -.17* -.1**    
Environmental Factors
Leisure           .17** .02 .46
Secure Environment           -.1    
Healthy Environment           .05    

Table 2. β coefficients of socio-demographics, individual and health-related factors, clinical variables, and social-economic environmental factors
associated with depression

Predicting depression from health-related factors

In Model 3, resilience, self-esteem, and self-perceived health were all associated with depression [F (11,340)=12.5; P <0.001]. Mastery, being on medication, satisfaction with health services, and use of health services did not yield a significant association with depression. The addition of health-related factors accounted for a significant amount of additional variance above and beyond that accounted for by individual characteristics (ΔR2=5.5%; p <0.001).

Predicting depression from the clinical variables and social assets

In model 4, resilience, anxiety, somatic symptoms, and social impairment were significantly associated with Depression. Anxiety had the most predictive power, followed by the other two clinical variables [F (19, 338)=14.6; p <0.001]. The model contributed an additional 13.7% significant variance above and beyond health-related factors. In model 5, only QOL was significantly associated with depression among the social assets [F (17,217) =9.9; P <0.001. The model accounted for an additional 2% of variance above and beyond the clinical variables.

In the final model (Model 6), resilience, QOL, and leisure were significantly associated with depression (p <0.001), followed by anxiety, somatic symptoms, and social impairment (p <0.05). Individual factors had the most predicting power, with a variance of 17.8% in overall depression. The final model accounted for 46% of the variability in depression [F (20,214) =9.2, p <0.001]. Gender, marital status, type of health services, health shierarchical regression analysis and were left out in the table. The section below discusses the findings.


The authors reported the prevalence of depression of the sampled population of the older people as 7.4% and that of social impairment as 20.6%. Additionally, the final model (Model 6) showed that resilience, QOL, and leisure were significantly associated with depression (p <0.001), followed by anxiety, somatic symptoms, and social impairment (p <0.05).

A prevalence rate for depression of 7.4% is lower than the global median prevalence rate of 10.3% [13]. However, it is still significant as it falls between the Inter-quartile range of between 4.7% and 16.0% [13]. The prevalence rate for depression in the current study was also lower than those found in other studies conducted in South Africa (51.9%, 40%, and 42.5%) and Iran (52.3% and 45%). These rates are comparatively high as compared to the results of the current study. This difference could be due to such factors as the environment and the research design [14]. For example, a meta-analysis found a severe depression prevalence rate of 8.2%, which declined when investigating the effects of increasing sample size and years of study [15]. Additionally, the differences in the prevalence could also be accounted for by the high scores for resilience and high QOL scores [2]. People with the fore-going attributes were said to suffer less from depression compared to their counterparts.

However, although the prevalence appears lower than the average of 10%-it is quite significant and can be reduced.

The current rate prompts the development of preventative and treatment measures to curb new cases, especially during the COVID-19 era.

Predicting depression from socio-demographic and individual factors

The authors revealed that the socio-demographic factors were not significant predictors of depression in the final model. These results are inconsistent with results found in previous studies, which showed an association between depression and socio-demographic factors such as education, income, type of residence, and suffering from chronic health challenges [16-20]. However, according to Sangma RJ, et al. [21], the association between factors such as age, educational level, employment status, marital status, family type, financial dependency, health condition and limitation of daily activities, and depression was not significant in other studies. Commenting on the result inconsistencies stated that association patterns are not always constant [18], therefore more studies to establish the existence or non-existence of associations between depression and sociodemographic variables should follow.

Concerning individual factors, consistent with other studies Lau SY, et al. [22]; Morete MC, et al. [23]; Gooding PA, et al. [24], resilience had a strong significant negative association with depression in the final model. These results were substantiated by findings from a meta-analysis of 7 studies from the USA, China, and Belgium that found a moderate and inverse association between resilience and depression [25], suggesting the importance of building resiliency in older people. Since resiliency can be viewed as recovery and sustainability [26], individuals who go through stressful experiences can recover from such experiences without leading to depressive symptoms and can also withstand and persevere amid challenges without experiencing depressive symptoms. This recovery can be attributed to positive emotions, a characteristic of resilience, and encourages flourishing [27].

Although self-esteem had a strong association with depression in the second and third models, there was no significant influence in the final model. The finding is inconsistent with other studies that found significance [28]. The difference may be because the other previous studies might not have controlled for all influencing factors. The scar model supports an association as it also proposes that self-esteem is affected by experiences of depressive symptoms even when the symptoms are not present.

Predicting depression from clinical variables and socioenvironmental assets

Similar to previous findings [29-39] the present study found a significant association between clinical variables (Anxiety, somatic symptoms and social impairment) and depression. These significant associations are not a surprise as these variables have similar symptoms and a noted co-occurrence in different studies. Experiencing anxiety can lead to depressive symptoms such as sad emotions, hopelessness, and helplessness due to recognizing the constant effort needed to cope with the anxiousness.

Furthermore, the misinterpretation of bodily sensations of serious diseases (somatic symptoms) can lead to the burgeoning of depressive symptoms, especially if one is not getting sufficient assistance. Concerning social impairment, research has documented that individuals who experience impairment in functioning have limited communication [40]. Since continued favorable exchange with a person's proximate social environment (e.g., family, friends, and work-life) exerts a beneficial effect on health and wellbeing [40], the inability to engage in the social world might lead to depression.

Socio-environmental assets

In the final model, QOL had a strong association with depression. This result was consistent with studies by Cao W, et al. [19] and that found a significant association between depression and quality of life. QoL has been defined as 'people's perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live-concerning their goals, expectations, standards and concerns [41], thus a negative perception of QOL could lead one to develop depressive symptoms.

Additionally, the only environmental asset that had a strong significant association with depression was leisure. This finding was consistent with results from other previous studies [42,43]. The results may be explained by that engaging in leisure activities provides a buffer for stressful experiences. According to Coleman D, et al. [44], leisure plays a vital role in coping: 1. awareness of social support and a sense of fellowship in shared activities, and 2. portrayal of willpower such as perceived locus of control. The fore-going suggests that an individual who engages in leisure activities can engage in behavioural activation [44], which may improve depressive symptoms.

Implications for research, practice, and policy

There is a shortage of research on the mental health of older people in Botswana. Therefore, these findings provide preliminary information on the determinants of depression among older people for further review by the research community. Findings may help stakeholders attempt to reduce further marginalization of the general health care of older people. The results may also shed light to mental health practitioners to take cognizance of determinants of depression such as resilience, quality of life, somatic complaints, anxiety, and social impairments during their practice. They could also include the foregoing determinants when developing interventions for older people. Besides, the current findings may prompt a consideration of the development of programs that may improve the QOL of older people.


Further, stakeholders should build resilience in older people to curb the development of depressive symptoms. Stakeholders can also provide good opportunities for leisure activities (e.g., recreational activities and hobbies). Lastly, the government should formulate a mental health policy for older people, emanating from the findings. The limitations of the study follow.


• The study utilized the snowballing technique to find older people to decrease participant identification turnover time and the burden of knocking in every yard in the selected districts. However, the results from a non-probability sampling technique like convenience sampling cannot be generalized or extrapolated to a larger population.

• The population was selected from the East and Southern Districts of the country, making it difficult to generalize the findings since some of the people who live in the North (e.g., the Bushman) have different lifestyles from the rest of the target population.

• The sample size (N=378) fell marginally below the calculated sample size (N=384) and may have posed a variability limitation in this study. For example, selfperceived health was associated with depression in Model 3 but was insignificant in subsequent models. Thus, constant significances might have resulted in a larger sample size (e.g., self-esteem).

In conclusion, stakeholders, particularly mental health practitioners should take cognizance of determinants of depression such as QOL, resilience, leisure, somatic complaints, anxiety, and social impairments during their practice to curtail severity of depression in older people. Prevention of mental disorders, for instance, depression goes a long way in reducing medical costs and also improves people’s wellbeing, especially older people.


This study was funded by the National Institute of Aging Grants: RO1AG05442.


The authors express gratitude to the University of Zimbabwe ORD that funded the research. We also acknowledge and thank all the older people who participated in the study.


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