Feeling depressed? This Chinese game may be the answer

When it comes to reducing depression risk among middle-aged and older adults in China, playing a game of mahjong may be the answer, according to new research.

A study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine says that regularly playing the popular tile-based strategy game – mahjong – was one of several types of social participation linked to reduced rates of depression among middle-aged and older adults in China.

"Global economic and epidemiologic trends have led to increase in the burden of mental health among older adults, especially in the low and middle income countries," said study co-author Adam Chen.

Poor mental health is a major issue in China, which accounts for 17 per cent of the global disease burden of mental disorders.

For the study, the research team looked at symptoms of depression and compared it to the type and frequency of social participation, including visiting with friends, playing mahjong, participating in a sport or social club, and volunteering in the community.

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, a popular strategy game, were less likely to feel depressed.

"What is more surprising is that mahjong playing does not associate with better mental health among rural elderly respondents. One hypothesis is that mahjong playing tends to be more competitive and at times," Chen added.

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