April 21, 2014

University of Montevallo faculty member researches elderly and the Internet

MONTEVALLO –- Sherry Ford, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Montevallo, has co-authored a paper published recently in the peer-reviewed Journals of Gerontology that explored the relationship between Internet use and depression in older, retired Americans. Her co-authors include Phoenix Center Chief Economist George S. Ford, Shelia Cotten (Michigan State University) and Timothy Hale (Harvard University).

Internet Use and Depression Among Retired Older Adults in the United States: A Longitudinal Analysis finds that use of the Internet reduces depression in the elderly by as much as 34 percent. The study covers responses to the Health and Retirement Survey during the years 2002 – 2008, applying advanced statistical techniques to a substantial dataset.

Since depression affects between five and 10 million Americans aged 50 and older, with almost eight percent of the aged population reporting current depression, these findings offer a tool to help reverse these numbers, thereby also reducing the financial cost to treat those suffering from the condition.

The Internet offers older Americans a chance to overcome the social and spatial boundaries that are believed to fuel depression. Theoretically, Internet usage by older adults enables them to maintain contact with their social networks, exchange social support and gather information to help them make decisions, which all enhance well-being.

“As an interpersonal communication specialist,” says S. Ford, “I am thrilled to see additional evidence for the value of maintaining close ties with significant others. This study in particular indicates that for seniors, especially those who live alone, Internet use facilitates connection to social networks when those connections may otherwise diminish. As I like to say to my students, ‘That’s powerful stuff!’”



April 17, 2014

Contact:        Marsha Littleton

                        University Relations Department

                        University of Montevallo