Senior Thesis Abstract (Lewis)


Political Economy and Depression in Older Adults

Jessica Lewis

Sub-field: Cultural & Medical Anthropology

Advisor: Fran Barg, Department of Anthropology & School of Medicine

In the United States, depression among older adults presents a significant health problem. To understand the meaning and experience of depression among older adults, I conducted a secondary analysis of open-ended, semi-structured interviews with 102 participants over age 65. The interviews were designed to elicit older adults’ explanatory models for depression. I used a political economy lens to probe their perceptions and beliefs about depression. Productivity came to the fore as a common theme, clearly influencing respondents’ self-perception and explanations of the disorder. Manifested in discussions about self-worth and depression, political economy issues including capitalism and macro-level forces have clearly penetrated cultural models at the societal and individual level.

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