Aug. 22, 2005 -- Older adults who use computers report fewer depression symptoms than seniors who don't use computers.
The reasons for the pattern aren't clear, and the new study that showed this was relatively small. But the key might be connecting with other people and learning via computers.
"Given the social and informational nature of older adults' computer practices -- e-mail, chat rooms, and health information gathering, for example -- it seemed likely that this would be beneficial to an individual's overall mental health," says researcher Kathleen Triche, DSW, CSW, in a news release.
Triche and colleagues presented the finding in Washington, D.C., at the American Psychological Association's annual convention.
The study included about 200 older adults living in lower Manhattan. Participants were over 65. They filled out questionnaires about computer use, mental health, and tasks of daily living (like cooking, managing money, and shopping for groceries).
"Those older adults that use computers seem to report fewer depressive symptoms, regardless of how many hours they use the computer," write the researchers.
Logging On in the 'Golden Years'
Seniors who used computers had higher annual household incomes and reported greater ease with daily tasks. Taking that into consideration didn't change the results, write the researchers.
Though participants were randomly drawn from three different ZIP codes, they tended to be white and highly educated. More diverse studies should be done, write the researchers.
They also call for studies to see if computer usage cuts depression in older adults or if depressed seniors are less likely to choose to use computers.