Healthcare Technology Featured Article

October 20, 2009

Healthcare Technology and News: Internet Use Decreases Depression in Senior Citizens: Report


Here’s an incentive for senior citizens who are timid about jumping on the information superhighway. A new report found that surfing the Internet reduces depression among that age group.
 
Spending time online reduced depression among senior citizens by 20 percent, according to a report by the Phoenix Center, a nonprofit group that studies broadband Internet policy issues.
 
The report, “Internet Use and Depression Among the Elderly,” found that the Internet fosters interpersonal communication, helps reduce loneliness and improves a sense of well-being among seniors.
 
"Increased Internet access and use by senior citizens enables them to connect with sources of social support when face-to-face interaction becomes more difficult," Dr. Sherry G. Ford, a Phoenix Center visiting scholar and study co-author, who also serves as an associate professor of communications studies at University of Montevallo in Alabama.
 
The move to increase Web surfing among seniors could reduce the national healthcare costs, the report said. Depression affects millions Americans age 55 or older and costs the United States about $100 million annually in direct medical costs, suicide and mortality and workplace costs, the report said.
 
Yet only 42 percent of Americans aged 65 or more use the Internet, below the adoption rate of other age groups, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And with the low adoption rates by seniors, the study found that the opportunity for improved health from increased Internet adoption would be “substantial.”

"Efforts to expand broadband use in the U.S. must eventually tackle the problem of low adoption in the elderly population," George S. Ford, co-author of the study, said in a statement. "The positive mental health consequences of [the] Internet demonstrate, in part, the value of demand stimulus programs aimed at older Americans."

Amy Tierney is a Web editor for HealthTechZone, covering unified communications, telepresence, IP communications industry trends and mobile technologies. To read more of Amy's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Amy Tierney






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