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University of Wisconsin–Madison

HITS publishes “The Effects of Online Social Connectedness on Older Adults’ Depressive Symptoms”

In the new article “The Effects of Online Social Connectedness on Older Adults’ Depressive Symptoms: Evidence from a Two-Wave Cross-lagged Panel Study” in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the Health Information Technology Studies (HITS) group studied the effectiveness of a support website for enhancing social connectedness on improving depressive symptoms in older adults.

Abstract: Depressive symptoms are the most prevalent mental health concern among older adults (possibly heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic), which raises questions about how such symptoms can be lowered in this population. Existing research shows that offline social connectedness is a protective factor against depression in older adults; however, it is unknown whether web-based social connectedness can have similar effects.

This study investigates whether social connectedness on a support website protects older adults against depressive symptoms over the course of a year, above and beyond the protective effect of offline social connectedness. The secondary aim is to determine whether older adults with increased depressive symptoms are more likely to engage in social connectedness on this website. Thus, we examine depressive symptoms as both an outcome and predictor of web-based social connectedness to fully understand the chain of causality among these variables. Finally, we compare web-based social connectedness with offline social connectedness in their ability to lower depressive symptoms among older adults.

Full citation: “The Effects of Online Social Connectedness on Older Adults’ Depressive Symptoms: Evidence from a Two-Wave Cross-lagged Panel Study,” Juwon Hwang, Catalina Toma, Junhan Chen, Dhavan Shah, David Gustafson & Marie Louise Mares, Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(1): e21275, January 2021. DOI: 10.2196/21275

Access the article: https://www.jmir.orgh/2021/1/e21275/

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