AlzU Blog

New Study Indicates Technology Helps Seniors with Depression

It’s estimated that nearly 10 million senior citizens suffer from depression which is often times preceded by isolation and loneliness.

A new research project at Michigan State University (published in the Journal of Gerontology) indicates that internet use among the senior population may actually lower the rate of depression in the elderly by as much as thirty percent.

Although many seniors are somewhat apprehensive about new technology, recent studies show that using internet services such as SKYPE and email may actually help seniors deal with loneliness that often times accompanies depression.

The 6 year project led by professor of telecommunications, Sheila Cotton at Michigan State University, collected data from over 3,000 elderly respondents.“That’s a very strong effect,” said Cotten, “And it all has to do with older persons being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their social networks, and just not feel lonely.”

The study examined senior subjects’ level of depression before and after they started using the internet for social functions such as email and SKYPE.  Researchers found that some people remained depressed in spite of using technology to communicate with friends and family, but for many participants (particularly those who lived alone), depression rates substantially improved.  Cotton went on to explain that the benefit of using the internet to battle depression depends partially on how it’s used. “If you sit in front of a computer all day, ignoring the roles you have in life and the things you need to accomplish as part of your daily life, then it’s going to have a negative impact on you,” Cotten said. “But if you’re using it in moderation and you’re doing things that enhance your life, then the impacts are likely to be positive in terms of health and well-being.”

Technology may be one way to help your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), cope with loneliness and isolation-particularly for those in the early stages of the disease. It may also help senior caregivers who are cut off from social networks as a result of spending many hours at home caring for a loved one. 

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