178896 Aging and the internet: A potential mental health concern with no boundaries

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kiti Freier Randall, PhD , School of Science & Technology, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
Peter Gleason, PhD(c) , Department of Psychology, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
Mark S. Randall, DrPH, PsyD , Behavioral Medicine, Community Hospital, Indianapolis, IN
Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH , Center for Prevention Research, Center for Media Impact Research, Andrews University, Careywood, ID
Duane C. McBride, PhD , Behavioral Science Department, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI
John V. Stevens, JD , Center for Media Impact Research, Institute for the Prevention of Addictions/Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI
Introduction: Relationships between mental health and media are frequently explored and debated. This has again become of particular interest as baby-boomers, an internet savvy group, enter retirement age. While the internet is used for many benign purposes, it has also been associated with significant mental health concerns. This study explored potential relationships between internet use and mental health issues (i.e. depression) in baby-boomers.

Methods: Responses were anonymously obtained via a self-administered Internet questionnaire from a random sample of adults (males, n=426; females, n=515) in the Seattle-Tacoma DMA.

Results: Within the elder sample (age 55+, n= 274; male n=128; female n= 146) strong positive correlations were found between using the internet to feel less lonely, using the internet to escape the real world, and being at risk for a major depressive diagnosis. Hopefulness about the future was negatively correlated with risk for depression and risk of internet addiction; fearfulness was positively correlated with both. Hours spent surfing the internet positively correlated with accessing sexual explicit materials. Using the internet to access and length of time spent accessing sexual explicit materials, were positively correlated with risk for internet addiction. Risk of depression was positively correlated with risk of internet addiction.

Conclusions: This study supports the theory that internet use may mirror substance addiction in providing escape for depression. These relationships need further investigation as the more internet savvy baby-boomers enter retirement and practitioners serve growing numbers of clients whose use of the internet is intertwined with issues of depression and social isolation.

Learning Objectives:
1. Information related to mental health and the internet will be attained. 2. Relationships in the elder population with internet use and mental health, particularily depression will be offered.

Keywords: Internet, Aging

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have no financial investment or other conflict of interest. I was an investigator on this study and have sufficient expertise and knowledge to present this topic.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.