Study: Internet use may help older adults avoid depression
Depression is an issue that a sizable number of older adults face. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6 percent of American adults (2 million) over the age of 65 suffer from some form of depression. One contributing factor to depression is social isolation, as many adults live far away from family members and friends. A new study published in Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, suggests that the key to minimizing depression and social isolation may be as simple as using the internet.
Through a series of surveys conducted between 2002 and 2008, researchers from Michigan State University found that retirees who regularly use the internet for communication were less likely to suffer from depression than non-users. The 3,000 survey respondents were all over the age of 50 and were not living in nursing homes. The Michigan State team linked regular internet use to a 33 percent lower probability of depression. For adults who were aging in place alone, internet use had an even stronger effect.
"The key is that the internet helps older adults stay in contact with their friends and family and to feel part of a larger community," study lead author Shelia Cotten said in a press release. "They're still actively engaged in some segment of our society, and they're not feeling like life has passed them by."
The study doesn't go into the details of why internet use seems to reduce depression rates, but Cotten suggested that individuals who are able to communicate with family and friends are generally happier.
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