Using social media may help counteract depression in older adults who restrict their “offline” (face-to-face) social activities because of chronic pain, a recent study suggests.
Past studies have linked loneliness, social isolation, and chronic pain with depression. The researchers in the latest study analyzed data from the National Health & Aging Trends Study, which tracks a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older. They found that, among older adults with chronic pain, connecting withothers via social networks like Facebook and Twitter may buffer the negative effects of pain on mental well-being.
“Findings show that online social participation can alleviate the negative effects of pain on mental well-being, and suggest that online social participation can supplement attemps to maintain offline social participation in later life, especially for those whose social activity may be limited by pain,” the researchers wrote. The study appeared in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.
What you should do
It's well established that social connection is important for healthy aging. If you’re unable to engage socially in person, consider exploring well-known social networks like Facebook where you can connect with friends and family members. But some words of warning from the Department of Homeland Security if you use social media:
- Limit the personal information you post on sites like Facebook. Read the sites’ privacy policies, and use their privacy settings.
- Accept friend requests only from people you know.
- Don’t give out private information over the internet. Beware of any requests to update your private information.
- Avoid opening attachments, clicking on suspicious links, or responding to email messages from unknown senders.
This article first appeared in the January 2019 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.