use by seniors may be good for their mental health
Newswise--Seniors who become adept at and use a computer
appear to have fewer depressive symptoms than those older adults who
aren’t so technologically connected.
That’s the finding of a research study,
Depression and Social Support Among Older Adult Computer Users,
presented August 18 at the 113th Annual Convention of the American
The data regarding computer use and depressive
symptoms was collected as part of the latest wave of an ongoing
longitudinal study that is designed to determine the changes over
time in physical health, mental health and social activity of older
adults living in lower Manhattan.
Called VOICES (Villagers Over 65 Independent
Living Challenges and Expectations), the research is being sponsored
by Village Care of New York, a not-for-profit long-term care
provider. Villagers refers to persons living in Manhattan’s
Greenwich Village and environs, representing the core group of
individuals being followed over the course of the study, which began
The computer use study was conducted by Edward
Cisek, PhD, and Kathleen Triche, DSW, CSW.
Triche, who presented the study’s findings at
the conference in Washington, D.C., said that the researchers
decided to look into the impact of the growing use of computers by
seniors on the hypothesis that those using computers would report
fewer depressive symptoms than non-users.
Through observations at one of Village Care’s
senior information centers in New York City, which Triche directs,
computer use there seemed to give older adults a greater connection
with the world around them.
“Given the social and informational nature of
older adults’ computer practices e-mail, chat rooms and health
information gathering, for example, it seemed likely that this would
be beneficial to an individual’s overall mental health,” Triche
In the computer study, it was determined, after
controlling for a number of background characteristics, that seniors
who were computer users reported significantly fewer depressive
symptoms than their counterparts who do not use the computer.
Researchers also found that computer users
tended to be among the younger members of the study group and have
higher annual household incomes, while also reporting higher
functioning in activities of daily living than the rest of the
seniors in the study group.
“Clearly, those older adults in this study who
use computers report fewer depressive symptoms, regardless of how
many hours per week they use the computers,” Triche said,
cautioning, however, that these findings are among a generally
highly educated group residing in a limited geographic area.
Future research in this area should include
more diverse populations and use other measures of social
Participants in the survey included an urban
community sample of 206 adults over the age of 65 (with a mean age
of 80) that was randomly selected from three zip codes in lower