Loneliness is a major depression risk factor for senior citizens. However, when those same seniors have access to the Internet and are able to use social networks, e-mail, instant messaging and other programs to keep in touch with their loved ones and friends, they have a much lower risk of exhibiting symptoms of depression.
The study was based on an analysis of data by the Health and Retirement Survey. The survey collects data involving more than 22,000 senior Americans every two years. The researchers found that the use of information technology and Internet use can reduce the chances of depression in a senior citizen by more than 30%. The researchers believe that a 30% reduction is a very statistically significant reduction.
Internet use can help reduce the risk of depression, when a person is lonely and uses social networks to keep in touch with friends and family. However, it isn’t clear whether Internet use really benefits persons who were already suffering from symptoms of depression before they began using the Internet. The study also did find that some people continued to remain depressed even after they began using the Internet, although the numbers of these people were not significant. Overall, the researchers believe that Internet use can be a tool to help reduce depression risks, if used in moderation.
The findings of this study shouldn’t be taken to mean that a senior citizen must spend the whole day in front of the computer to keep depression away. As with all good things, moderation is key. Other activities including outdoor activities, exercise, and face-to-face, real-time interactions with people are equally important to keep those painful symptoms of loneliness away. In other words, the Internet needs to be one aspect of a well-rounded approach to mental and emotional health for a senior.
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