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Moderating effects of social engagement on driving cessation in older women

  • Nancy A. Pachana (a1), Janni K Leung (a2) (a3), Paul A Gardiner (a2) (a4) and Deirdre McLaughlin (a2)



Driving cessation in later life is associated with depression. This study examines if social support can buffer the negative effects of driving cessation on older women's mental health.


Participants were drawn from the 1921–1926 cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH) and included 4,075 older women (aged 76–87 years) who drove at baseline, following them for three years to assess driving cessation. The outcome variable was mental health, measured by the mental health index (MHI) of the SF-36. The explanatory variables were social support factors, including social interaction, whether the women were living alone or with others, and engagement in social activities. Control variables included age, country of birth, area of residence, ability to manage on income, marital status, and general health.


Main effect results showed that poor mental health was predicted by driving cessation, low levels of social interaction, and non-engagement in social activities. There was a significant interaction effect of driving status by social activities engagement on mental health. Women who remained active in their engagement of social activities were able to maintain a good level of mental health despite driving cessation.


Engagement and participation in social activities can help older women who stopped driving maintain a good level of mental health.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Deirdre McLaughlin, School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Herston Road, Herston, Qld. 4006, Australia. Phone: +61-7-33655335. Email:


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International Psychogeriatrics
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