Spending time on-line has the potential to ward off depression among retirees, particularly among those who live alone, according to new research.
Internet use reduced the probability of a depressed state by 33 per cent among the study sample, researchers said. “Retired persons are a population of interest, particularly because one mechanism by which Internet use may affect depression is to counter the effects of isolation and loneliness, which are more common among older adults,” researchers said.
“Working individuals may be required to use the Internet rather than choosing to, and may use the technology for different reasons than those not working,” researchers said.
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The data were obtained from four waves of the Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal survey collecting information from more than 22,000 older Americans every two years. The current study sample included 3,075 community-dwelling respondents observed over 4 waves of data, from 2002 to 2008, yielding a total of 12,300 observations.
The measurement of Internet use was based on a question asked to the participants. Depression was measured using an eight-item version of the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. “With other factors constant, the Internet users had an average predicted probability of depression of .07, whereas that probability for nonusers was .105,” researchers said.
Based on the difference, Internet use led to a 33 per cent reduction in the probability of depression.
The study conducted by researchers from Michigan State University, the Phoenix Centre for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, the University of Montevallo and Centre for Connected Health and Harvard Medical School was published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.