Abstract: Cross-Country Comparison of Internet Use and Depression By Gender: The Role of Intergenerational Factors (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

543P Cross-Country Comparison of Internet Use and Depression By Gender: The Role of Intergenerational Factors

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Hyunju Shim, MSW, PhD Student, University of Southern California, CA
Eileen Crimmins, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose: Technology may offer one approach to reducing depression as it provides medium to maintain connections (Cotton et al., 2014). Yet, depression, internet use, gender roles, and expectation of intergenerational interaction all differ across countries. Using nationally representative data from the US and Korea, the current study examines association between internet use and depression using demographic, socioeconomic, and intergenerational characteristics by gender, and how intergenerational factors moderate this association differentially for men and women.

Methods: Data and samples: For US, we use the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative survey of adults aged 50 and older. We use data from the 2014 survey and the analytic sample for general internet use includes 6,501 adults aged 65 and over (2,593 men and 3,908 women). For Korea, we use the 2017 Living Profile of Older People Survey (LPOPS), which is also a nationally representative survey of older adults co-led by Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs. The final analytic sample of 9,831 adults (3,919 men and 5,912 women). We limited the HRS sample to those aged 65 and over to keep comparability with LPOPS. We compared characteristics of older men and women using χ2 tests and F-ratios, and used negative binomial regressions to estimate the effect of internet use on depression by gender. Next, we tested the interaction between internet use and intergenerational characteristics, measured by financial transfer, contact with children, and distance from the closest child.  

Measures: Depression was measured continuously with different scales for US (0-8) and Korea (0-15). Use of internet was measured dichotomously (yes=1, no=0). Other covariates include age, gender, education, marital status, wealth, chronic conditions, ADL limitations.

Results: In the U.S., more than half of men and women aged 65+ used the internet, while approximately 30% of women and 47% of men used the internet in Korea. In both countries, internet use was associated with lower depression for men and women, accounting for intergenerational characteristics. However, using the internet was associated with lower depression for those living far from the closest child for women but not for men in the U.S., while the association was the opposite in Korea.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings indicate that the association of internet use on depression can be influenced by intergenerational factors that may differentially affect men and women depending on the sociohistorical contexts. The effect of internet use on depression is not universally applicable to different groups of older people, and policy makers need to take different factors into consideration for developing policies for social integration.