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Using Skype to Beat the Blues: Longitudinal Data from a National Representative Sample

Published:October 29, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2018.10.014

      Highlights

      • What is the primary question addressed by this study?
        Is the use of certain types of online communication technology associated with subsequent depressive symptoms?
      • What is the main finding of this study?
        We found that users of video chat had approximately half the probability of depressive symptoms at two-year follow-up compared to non-users and users of email, social media, and instant messaging.
      • What is the meaning of the finding?
        This study points to the novel possibility that among older adults use of video chat technologies like Skype may indicate lower risk for developing signs and symptoms of depression years later.

      Abstract

      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.

      Key Words

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