‘Silver surfers’ may have lower depression risk

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‘Silver surfers’ may have lower depression risk
Can regularly using the internet help fight isolation?

“Silver surfers are happier than techno-foges [sic]: Internet use cuts elderly depression rates by 30 per cent,” the Mail Online reports after the results of a US study have suggested that regular internet use may help combat feelings of isolation and depression in older adults.

In this study, 3,075 retired people were surveyed every two years between 2002 and 2008. Internet usage was assessed based on a “yes/no” response to the question: “Do you regularly use the world wide web, or the internet, for sending and receiving e-mail or for any other purpose?”

Depression symptoms were measured using a short version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies (CES-D) scale. This scale looks at responses to eight “yes/no” questions about mood and defines a “depressed state” as a score of four or more out of eight.

The study found that internet users were less likely to have a “depressed state” than non-users, with internet use leading to a 33% reduction in the probability of being in a “depressed state”.

But it’s important to note that this does not necessarily mean those who took part in the study had a medical diagnosis of depression. These findings cannot prove that internet use is the direct cause of any reduction in depression symptoms.

A randomised controlled trial of internet use would be required to better see whether – and how – internet use can reduce the risk of depression.

The internet, like any tool, can be a force for both good and bad. On the plus side, it does allow you to access up to seven years of Behind the Headlines articles.

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