Updated: Oct 9
In this episode, we are exploring the correlation between internet use and mental health. Varying studies show the benefits and possible downside to daily internet use in older users. Some people have shown positive trends in mental health. Some factors that affect life satisfaction include education and wealth and how often you use the internet.
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The information in this episode comes from the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the academic journal Ageing and Society, and medicalxpress.com.
How mental health and internet use in older individuals are related.
There’s a lot of theories and contradicting information about how internet use affects people in their daily lives. Often people are told that they spend too much time on the internet.
Internet use can really affect certain groups of people differently though. Here are some recent studies we’ve found.
One study came from the Journal of Medical Internet Research. It had more than 9,000 participants over the age of 50. The study took place between 2012 and 2017. The study “reveals that those from higher socio-economic groups are reaping benefits to mental wellbeing not experienced by others.”
They’re saying that the study says that people with more wealth and more education can gain more benefits from using the internet because they are more likely to use the internet daily. Some factors may include availability to WIFI in their home, multiple devices in the home, and more free time to use the internet.
Right, the study also states that “The differences in depression and life satisfaction scores were steeper over time for those with a degree compared to those without, highlighting the greater potential for those with higher educational backgrounds to improve their mental wellbeing through more frequent internet use than others.”
That’s a super interesting find. So the higher the education, you receive more benefits from using the internet. There are two different reasons people accessed the internet for different reasons specified in this study. Justin, can you tell the crew how people used the internet in this study.
So there are two major reasons people used the internet. Communication with others, on Social Media, emails, etc. The other was to find work, or information about a certain topic.
The results are super interesting here. When people are looking for work or using the internet to search for information, they reported worse life satisfaction, “those who used the internet for 'information access', specifically searching for jobs, had worse life satisfaction compared to those who did not, even when the working status was taken into consideration.”
So what you’re doing on the internet definitely affects your mood and how you’re enjoying life. There’s always another side of things. Another recent study links daily use of the internet in older people can lead to isolation.
An article from the journal Ageing and Society, examined data from 4,492 adults in England, with an average age of 64. Overall, 19% reported high levels of loneliness and 33% were classified as socially isolated.
Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, people can be feeling much more isolated and rely on the internet for communication and connecting with their friends and family. The study states (quote), “We were surprised that daily internet users recorded similar levels of social isolation as those who never use the internet. It might be that many of these people go online to combat their social isolation. Alternatively, going online more frequently might actually cause greater social isolation among some older adults as they reduce their physical contacts.”
What I gather from these two studies is that the internet can be a great thing for some, or can be detrimental to some. If you feel better using the internet, connecting with people online, then, it is shown that this can benefit your mental health.
We can offer some tips if you do need a break from social media or even just the internet. Things like turning off your notifications for apps, even just putting it on Do Not Disturb mode at night. Leaving your phone or device in a whole different room could dissuade you from having to constantly check. Even using an actual alarm clock instead of your phone reduces unintentional use of your phone which can lead to less exposure to your apps.