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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UGA: Playing Mahjong, Socializing Can Improve Mental Health Among Older Chinese

When it comes to boosting mental health among older Chinese, it may as simple as a game of mahjong, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

Regularly playing the popular tile-based strategy game was one of several types of social participation linked to reduced rates of depression among middle-aged and older adults in China in the study appearing in Social Science & Medicine.

The benefits of participating in social activities to mental health has been widely acknowledged, and some work has been done in developed nations, including the U.S. and Japan, to better understand this relationship. But little is known outside of these settings.

“Our paper provides evidence on the association between social participation and mental health in the context of a developing country. We also examined the rural-urban difference, which has not been examined extensively in this line of literature,” said Dr. Adam Chen, an associate professor of health policy and management at University of Georgia College of Public Health and study co-author.

Dr. Chen and collaborators from China’s Huazhong University of Science and Technology analyzed survey data from nearly 11,000 residents aged 45 years and older from the nationally representative China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study.

They looked at symptoms of depression and compared them to the type and frequency of social participation, including visiting with friends, playing mahjong, participating in a sport of social club, and community or volunteer work.

They found that, on the whole, participating in a wide variety of activities more frequently was associated with better mental health. Specifically, urban residents who played mahjong were less likely to feel depressed.

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