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Seniors can Combat Depression via Internet use

Update Date: Apr 19, 2014 11:07 AM EDT

Depression can be a highly debilitating mental illness. In a new study, researchers examined ways of reducing people's risk of depression. They found that for seniors, Internet use could be effective in lowering their chances of becoming depressed.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data provided by the Health and Retirement Survey, which had information on more than 22,000 seniors from the United States. The researchers focused on more than 3,000 participants. They examined the link between people's depression and Internet use.

The researchers discovered that using the Internet could reduce the risk of depression by more than 30 percent. For individuals who have suffered from a history of depression, their depressive symptoms remained despite Internet use. However, the researchers noted that the symptoms did improve slightly.

"Internet use continues to reduce depression, even when controlling for that prior depressive state," lead researcher Shelia Cotten, professor of telecommunications, information studies and media from Michigan State University, stated.

The researchers also found that Internet use for seniors who lived alone had an even greater effect on their depression risk. Despite these findings, the researchers added that moderation is key. Older adults should take the time to use the Internet while staying active and social in other aspects of life.

"If you sit in front of a computer all day, ignoring the roles you have in life and the things you need to accomplish as part of your daily life, then it's going to have a negative impact on you," Cotten explained in the university's press release. "But if you're using it in moderation and you're doing things that enhance your life, then the impacts are likely to be positive in terms of health and well-being."

The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

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