Background: Depression in old age is a complex multifactorial phenomenon that is influenced by several biopsychosocial variables. Depressive symptoms are associated with the presence of chronic diseases, with being female, with low education and low income levels, and with poor perceived health assessment. In impoverished areas, older adults may have more physical disability, as they may have less access to health services. Therefore, they may be more likely to report depressive symptoms.
Methods: Population-based cross-sectional research was undertaken using data from the FIBRA study conducted in Ermelino Matarazzo, a poor subdistrict of the city of São Paulo, Brazil. The participants comprised 303 elderly people, aged 65 years and over, who attended a single-session data collection effort carried out at community centers. The protocol comprised sociodemographic and self-reported health variables, and the Geriatric Depression Scale.
Results: The majority of the subjects reported five or fewer symptoms of depression (79.21%), reported one or two self-reported chronic diseases (56.86%), declared themselves to have one or two self-reported health problems (46.15%), and had good perceived health assessment (40.27%). The presence of depressive symptoms was associated with a higher number of self-reported health problems, poor perceived health assessment, and lower schooling levels, in the total sample and in analyses including men only. For women, depressive symptoms were associated with the number of self-reported health problems and family income.
Conclusion: The presence of health problems, such as falls and memory problems, lower perceived health, and low education (and low family income for women) were associated with a higher presence of depressive symptoms among elderly people in this poor area of São Paulo.