Frequent internet use during lockdown linked to mental health benefits in older people. Using the internet to stay in touch with friends and family was particularly linked to these beneficial effects.
A new study has found that people aged between 55 and 75 who used the internet more frequently during lockdown had a lower risk of depression.
Many people, particularly those in the older age bracket, have suffered from loneliness and social isolation during the lockdowns over the past year, and these can raise the risk of depression and other negative health outcomes.
Researchers from the University of Surrey conducted a study to investigate whether more frequent internet use in older people helped reduce this risk, and they discovered that it was beneficial for during lockdown.
The team analysed survey responses from 3,491 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing last summer, and found that those who used the internet frequently – characterised as once a day or more – had much lower levels of depression symptoms and reported a higher quality of life compared to those who used the internet only once a week or less.
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Using the internet to stay in touch with friends and family was particularly linked to these benefits, with the researchers suggesting that communicating online helped combat the negative psychological .
On the flipside, the researchers discovered that people who used their time online to read health-related information had higher levels of depression symptoms.
"As social restrictions continue during the Covid-19 pandemic, older people are at greater risk of loneliness and mental health issues," said Dr Simon Evans, Lecturer in Neuroscience at the University of Surrey. "We found that older adults who used the internet more frequently under lockdown, particularly to communicate with others, had lower depression scores and an enhanced quality of life. As the evolves, more frequent internet use could benefit the mental health of older people by reducing loneliness and risk of depression, particularly if further lockdowns are imposed in the future."
The findings were published in the journal ‘Healthcare’.