It’s always hard to tell a loved one that they shouldn’t drive anymore because of their advanced age, but it’s even harder after hearing this. A new study by the AAA automobile club Foundation for Traffic Safety and Columbia University says older adults who stop driving are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression and nearly five times as likely to enter a long-term care facility than those who remain behind the wheel.
The Driving Cessation and Health Outcomes for Older Adults study looked at senior adults who have permanently given up driving and the impact to their health and mental well-being. The number of drivers aged 65 and older continues to increase in the United States with nearly 81 percent of the 39.5 million seniors in this age group still behind the wheel.
Some key findings from the study include:
- Former drivers had markedly low participation in outside activities and diminished productivity in daily life activities compared to current drivers.
- The association between driving cessation and reduced physical functioning was strong in longitudinal studies even after adjusting for socio-demographic factors and baseline health.
- Overall, driving cessation almost doubled the risk of increased depressive symptoms in older adults.
- Driving cessation was associated with a 51% reduction in the size of social networks of friends and relatives.
- In general, former drivers had accelerated cognitive decline over a ten year period compared with active drivers even after controlling for baseline cognitive function and general health.
- Former drivers were nearly five times as likely as current drivers to be admitted to long term care facilities.
- Driving cessation was a strong predictor of three year mortality risk, as non-drivers were four to six times as likely to die as drivers.