Silver surfers strike gold!
Internet use has always been blamed for mental health problems and social isolation among youngsters, until now!
New research, covering almost 8,000 men and women over 50, shows that regular users of social-networking sites are almost one-third less likely to be diagnosed with depression compared with non-users.
It is a well-known fact that rates of depression increase with age, but researchers from theUniversityofIllinoisfound that depression was at its lowest at around 45, and highest among the over-80s.
Among the reasons given for the trend are loneliness, social isolation and lack of emotional support.
But the new study, the biggest so far on the health effects of internet use among older people, asked participants whether they used the internet regularly, and they were then assessed for mental illness.
“Our findings suggest that internet-use has a positive effect on depression,” said Dr Shelia Cotten, who led the research at theUniversityofAlabamaand other centres.
Another study, carried out at theUniversityofCalifornia, showed brain changes in men and women one week after using the internet for the first time.
The researchers said internet use stimulates nerve-cell activity and could boost brain functioning in older adults.
And Nichola Adams, whose research at theUniversityofSurreyhas looked at barriers to accessing the internet among older people, says: “The internet provides an important tool for the rapidly-increasing older population to lead independent lives.
“It enables them to keep in touch with friends and family, and to make informed decisions on many issues, from health to travel.”
She added: ‘The major reasons for not using the internet were found to be lack of knowledge or access.
“Our own research has shown that once those practical issues had been overcome, there were still psychological barriers.
“Social and work networks are important, and older users need back-up to overcome their apprehension at the beginning.”
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