Spending time online reduces depression by 20 percent for senior citizens, the Phoenix Center reports. In addition they report that reducing the incidence of depression by widespread Internet use among older Americans could trim the nation’s health care bill.
“Maintaining relationships with friends and family at a time in life when mobility becomes increasingly limited is challenging for the elderly,” says Phoenix Center Visiting Scholar and study co-author Dr. Sherry G. Ford. The policy paper examines survey responses of 7,000 retired Americans 55 years or older. The data was provided by the Health and Retirement Study of the University of Michigan.
The implications of the findings are significant because 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 Pew Internet & American Life Project estimates that only about 42 percent of Americans aged 65 or more use the Internet, far below the adoption rate of other age groups.
“Efforts to expand broadband use in the U.S. must eventually tackle the problem of low adoption in the elderly population,” says study coauthor Dr. George S. Ford. “The positive mental health consequences of Internet demonstrate, in part, the value of demand stimulus programs aimed at older Americans.”