The amount of time people spend in front of their televisions, computers, iPhones, android phones, and other Internet-based platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, is growing at a rapid rate. Numerous studies have looked at the implications of these technologies on physical and mental health.
Recently, a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology added further evidence demonstrating the dangers posed by these technological platforms. Lead researcher, Dr. Melissa Hunt, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, and her research tea, ran a series of experiments studying the effect of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram usage which provided clear proof of a direct connection between increased use of these platforms and decreased well-being.
The results of the study showed that partiipants who reduced their social media usage experienced significantly lower levels of depression and loneliness than the control group, who maintained their level of usage. It was also noted that individuals suffering from depression before the study began displayed an even stronger positive effect after limiting their use of these technological platforms.
Dr. Hunt pointed out that, “It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely, […]. when you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
Elderly people in particular face a significant risk from these technologies. It is natural for their world to become smaller, perhaps because of physical limitations or the death of a spouse or loved one. In many cases, they may lose their ability to drive or their independence. In many cases, the isolation and loneliness they experience is overwhelming. In fact, the elderly are at increased risk of depression and anxiety, and many take refuge in their televisions or computers.
Clearly, being able to see pictures or videos of grandchildren, or being able to stay in touch with family members via email or texting, is a positive addition to a person’s life. But if one’s television is on most of the day, or one spends much of their day in front of a computer screen, the probability of becoming depressed or having a sense of isolation and decreased well-being is greatly increased.
The takeaway message for us is very simple: it is important to interact with people every day. We should look for opportunities to go out and do things we enjoy, and continue to actively participate in real life. Whether it’s having meals with other people, going to lectures or concerts with other people, or simply talking and socializing with those around us, it is fundamentally important to avoid remaining isolated in one’s home.
Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.
Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.
Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.