Objectives: This study aimed to determine whether use of certain types of online communication technology is associated with subsequent depressive symptoms.
Design: Nationally representative, population-based prospective cohort.
Setting: Data were obtained from the 2012 and 2014 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS).
Participants: 1,424 community-residing older adults (mean age, 64.8) in the United States.
Measurements: We examined associations between use of four communication technologies (email, social networks, video chat, and instant messaging) in 2012 and depressive symptoms (eight-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale) at two-year follow-up.
Results: 564 participants (39.6%) did not use any communication technologies, 314 (22.1%) used email only, and 255 (17.9%) used video chat (e.g., Skype). Compared to non-users (13.1%, 95% CI: 9.5-16.7%) or those who used only email (14.3%, 95% CI: 10.1-18.5%), users of video chat had approximately half the probability of depressive symptoms (6.9%, 95% CI: 3.5-10.3%, Wald Chi2 test, Chi2(1)=13.82, p < 0.001; 7.6%, 95% CI: 3.6-11.6, Wald Chi2 test, Chi2(1)=13.56, p < 0.001). Use of email, social media, and instant messaging were not associated with a lower risk of depression.
Conclusions: Older adults who use video chat such as Skype, but not other common communication technologies, have a lower risk of developing depression.
Keywords: Health and Retirement Survey; aging; communication technology; computer-mediated communication; depression; major depressive disorder; social interaction.
Published by Elsevier Inc.