Online social supports could reduce seniors' depression, save healthcare spending

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Getting seniors to use the Internet more could simultaneously reduce rates of depression among the elderly and cut healthcare costs, according to a new report from The Phoenix Center.

Seniors, especially those with mobility difficulties, can have a tough time maintaining relationships with families and friends, which can lead to depression, according to study authors. Researchers, however, discovered that spending time online lowered depression rates by 20% among 7,000 older adult subjects in the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement Study. The Internet can allow seniors to “connect with sources of social support when face-to-face interaction becomes more difficult," said study co-author Dr. Sherry G. Ford at the University of Montevallo in Alabama.

Depression is estimated to cost billions of dollars each year in medical costs, including suicide, and work productivity costs. If seniors, only 42% of whom report using the Internet, were to spend more time online, there could be both better mental and economical outcomes, according to report authors. More information is available at www.phoenix-center.org.


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