Survey: Israeli men over 50 more depressed than Europeans

Study finds in Israel high percentage of those whose monthly income does not cover household expenses.

male depression 88 (photo credit: )
male depression 88
(photo credit: )
As Israeli men age, they become more likely to develop symptoms of depression than their European counterparts, according to initial data to be published Wednesday by Israeli researchers for the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The study, part of a multidisciplinary and cross-national database of statistics on health, socioeconomic status and social and family networks, questioned Israelis aged 50 or over. "It is not surprising that Israeli men are more depressed," Hebrew University School of Social Work Prof. Howard Litwin, who led the research, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. "There are lots of reasons to be depressed," he said. "Starting with low salaries and even the fact that this survey was carried out between the Second Intifada and the Second Lebanon War." Litwin, who is also the director of The Israel Gerontological Data Center, told the Post that Israel's participation in SHARE will help to shed greater light on ageing and provide possible solutions to addressing some of the challenges set to arise in the future. Fifteen countries have so far participated in the study. "This is not just another one-time survey of a selected area," Litwin said. "This is the first survey to compare ageing in 15 different countries, using the same time frame and even the same wording of the questions." He will unveil the research at a special conference organized by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Wednesday. Among the study's main findings in Israel was the high percentage of people over the age of 50 whose monthly income does not cover their household expenses, and the socioeconomic gaps that continue even into old age. Sixty-one percent of those questioned for the survey said that they usually ran out of money before the end of the month, while 32% of Israelis over 50 live below the poverty line. Litwin said Israel's situation was in stark contrast with that of Germany, for example, where 75% of its over 50 population claim to manage fairly easily financially. "Israel joined the [SHARE] study a year later, but we already have some initial comparisons," Litwin said. "We found that symptoms of depression among Israeli men were the highest compared to the other countries, but that people over 50 here are much more likely to be homeowners" Israel's immigrant population faced "cumulative difficulties… and a severe lack of satisfaction," he added. Litwin was joined in his research by Leah Achdut, senior economic fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the Rupin Academic Center. She said the report's greatest revelation was the level of importance that health factors played in encouraging people over 50 to retire. According to the study, those questioned reported that deteriorating health was one of the main reasons they decided to give up work. A large percentage also said the decision was made together with their spouse. The study indicated that Israel was part of a worldwide trend in falling retirement ages for men and women. The average age of retirement here is 60.2 years, compared to Europe where it is 56.3. Achdut said the government's raising of the official retirement age in 2004 from 60 to 65 for women and 65 to 67 for men will hopefully encourage people to work longer. The research, which was carried out by the Cohen Institute for Public Opinion Research in 2005/06, used a sample of 2,603 individuals, or 1,774 households, from across the country and from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. The study was funded mainly by the US government's National Institute on Ageing, with contributions from the National Insurance Institute and the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research.