HAVING a hobby in your 60s helps stave off depression, scientists say.
The team said hobbies can help improve your mental health in a variety of ways.
Dr Karen Mak, of University College London, said: “These include feeling in control of our minds and bodies, finding a purpose in life, and feeling competent in tackling daily issues.
“Our study shows the potential of hobbies to protect older people from age-related decline in mental health and wellbeing.
“This potential is consistent across many countries and cultural settings.”
Around one in six Brits suffers depression, with women around twice as likely to have the mental health problem.
It is the most common mental health issue in older people, with around 22 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women aged 65 or over affected.
Previous research has shown hobbies help reduce loneliness and can help protect against depression, but has tended to focus on individual countries.
The latest study, published in Nature Medicine, looked at whether this was the case across the globe, and also how hobbies affect levels of general health as well.
Hobbies included “arts, crafts, reading, playing games, sports, gardening, volunteering and participating in societies or clubs”, researchers said.
Some 78 per cent of the participants from England had a hobby.
Those who had a hobby said they had better health, higher life satisfaction, higher levels of happiness, and fewer depressive symptoms than those not engaging in a hobby.
Dr Mak said: “Of the four outcomes, life satisfaction was most strongly linked to hobby engagement.
“Theoretical work suggests the relationship between hobbies and wellbeing may cut both ways.
“People with better mental health may be more likely to take up a hobby, and persisting with a hobby may help us to retain improved life satisfaction.
“Our research also supports policymakers in promoting access to hobbies among older people as a way to enhance their wellbeing and health.”