The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Impact of Communication Technology Use On Depression and Self-Rated Health Status of Older Adults Dwelling in Retirement Communities

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jeehoon Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID
Hee Yun Lee, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St Paul, MN
Purpose: More than half of older adults living in America have used the internet or email at some point in their lives (Zickuhr &  Madden, 2012) to communicate with others or seek information. A few studies focused on internet usage and its associations with older adults’ social networking (Hogeboom, 2007, Pfeil & Zaphiris, 2009) or mental health (Cotton, Ford, Ford & Hale, 2012). However, there is no study that has examined how communication technology use is linked to older adults’ health and mental health status. This study examined (1) the level of communication technology use among older adults residing in the retirement communities and (2) the impact of the communication technology use on older adults’ depression and self-rated health status.

Methods: This study utilized the data from the first round of the 2011 National Health and Aging Trend Study (NHATS). The 2011 NHATS is a successor of National Long Term Care Surveys (1982-2004) and collects information on a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older. For this study, a sample of 594 older adults residing inretirement communities was drawn from the 2011 NHATS. For data analyses, this study used survey software, Stata 10.0 (StataCorp, 2007) and all estimates take weighted statistics.

Results: Findings revealed that about half of the sample (43%) used communication technology which includes email, texting, and internet and about one third participated in routine  walking (37%) and vigorous physical activities (36%) such as swimming, running, or biking. We  performed logistic and multiple regression analyses to examine factors associated with depression and self-rated health status respectively. While controlling for other relevant variables, communication technology use showed a significant negative relationship with depression and a significant positive association with self-rated health status.

Implications: A significant predicting role of communication technology use on health and mental health status implies that health care providers and health services researchers should understand the importance of communication technology in the provision of health promotion and mental health treatments. Communication technology may function as a prime medium to improve health and wellness of older adults in long-term care settings.