Research published online this month in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, describes how researchers looked at indicators of the quality of life, and found that in England it is above average between the ages of 50 and 84, and in some cases increases compared with earlier years.

The researchers from Imperial College London, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm and City University, London studied the effect of health factors such as long standing illness, social factors like trusting relationships and socio-economic factors on the quality of life.

Dr Gopal Netuveli from Imperial College London, and lead researcher, said: "Although many worry that old age and retirement could be a time of hardship, this study shows that for many their quality of life actually improves as they get older. In particular, social engagement such as volunteering can significantly improve quality of life, even in very old age."

The researchers found that factors such as a long standing illness, difficulties in moving about and carrying on with every day activities, depression or financial difficulties can all reduce the quality of life.

Factors such as trusting relationships with friends and family, frequent contact with friends and living in a good, safe neighbourhood were all found to increase the quality of life.

The team looked at data from 12,234 individuals aged 50 or over living in 2002 from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

Professor David Blane, from Imperial College London and senior researcher, said: "An increasingly ageing population has raised the possibility of a 'long and morbid winter' for many old people, and a potential problem for national economies with more people to support than there are people to work.

"However this study indicates that many of the problems associated with old age may be compressed to the last few years and people are able to lead a fulfilling life after retirement."

Three months later, kids whose moms remitted (or recovered from all depressive symptoms, based on a widely used measurement scale) showed an overall 11 percent decrease in rates of diagnoses for depression, as compared to an approximate 8 percent increase in rates of diagnoses in children of non-remitted mothers.

Of the children who were diagnosed with depression at the study's beginning, remission was reported in 33 percent of those whose mothers remitted, compared to only 12 percent remission rates in those whose mothers did not. Of the children with no diagnoses of depression at the study's onset, all children of remitted mothers remained symptom-free, while 17 percent of the children of non-remitted mothers acquired a diagnosis of depression during the three months.

Mothers who did not fully remit after three months, but did respond (showed a decrease in depressive symptoms by at least 50 percent) also had children who showed improvement. Additionally, when overall study results were analyzed based on mothers' educational levels, or both income and education, the statistics remained unchanged.

"A mother's depression does affect her kids," said Dr. Carroll W. Hughes, professor of psychiatry and rehabilitation counseling at UT Southwestern. "When she gets treated and gets better, lo and behold, her kids improve, too. A parent's depression not only has a strong impact on the family as a whole, but it often affects a child's functioning. It points out the need for parents to seek treatment for their depression."

The study's lead author, Dr. Myrna M. Weissman, as well as several other researchers are from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Also included were researchers from Vanderbilt University; the University of North Carolina; the University of Michigan; the University of California, San Diego; Virginia Commonwealth University; Harvard University; and the University of Pittsburgh.