Spending time on the internet reduces depression in older people by 20 per cent according to a report from US think tank, the Phoenix Centre.
The policy paper even suggested that the nation’s healthcare bill could be cut if older people went online, lowering the incidence of depression.
The recommendations are based on a survey of 7,000 retired Americans aged 55 and older. People who were still working or living in nursing homes were excluded from the survey because it was felt that they would skew the findings.
“Maintaining relationships with friends and family at a time in life when mobility becomes increasingly limited is challenging for the elderly,” study co-author Dr Sherry G. Ford from the University of Montevallo in Alabama.
“Increased internet access and use by senior citizens enables them to connect with sources of social support when face-to-face interaction becomes more difficult.”
Millions of senior Americans are affected by depression, costing the United States about $100 million each year.
It is estimated that only about 42 per cent of Americans aged 65 or over use the internet at the moment so the researchers believe there is significant potential for improved health outcomes with higher take-up.
“The positive mental health consequences of Internet demonstrate, in part, the value of demand stimulus programs aimed at older Americans,” said study Phoenix Center Chief Economist and study co-author, Dr George S. Ford.