Internet Use and Well-Being in Later Life: A Midway-Level Approach

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:12
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Rinat LIFSHITZ, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Galit NIMROD, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Yaacov BACHNER, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
According to previous research, Internet use may play a role in promoting well-being in later life, since there is considerable evidence of a positive association between Internet use and psychological well-being. Yet, there are substantial weaknesses in the existing body of knowledge, particularly the lack of differentiation between the four main online functions common to older adults, namely, communication, information, task performance, and leisure. Most studies have treated Internet use as a single activity, and this macro-level approach is likely to provide potentially misleading generalizations. Other studies have focused on specific online activities, i.e., they have used a micro-level approach that cannot be extrapolated to generalizations. Thus, the role of Internet use in promoting healthy and active aging was poorly understood. Applying a mid-level approach, namely, simultaneously but separately examining each of the four main online functions, the present study aimed to explore the associations between the use of each function and users’ well-being.  Data were collected online with a sample of 306 Internet users aged 50 and over. Respondents were asked to report the extent to which they make use of each function, and evaluate their well-being based on two measures: depression (measured by the CES-D scale, Radloff, 1977) and life satisfaction (measured by the SWLS, Diener et al., 1985). Analysis indicated that using the Internet for inter-personal communication and for information seeking were the most common usages, followed by task performance (e.g., banking, shopping). Using the Internet for leisure and recreation was significantly less common. However, of the four functions only leisure significantly associated with well-being: it was positively associated with life satisfaction and negatively associated with depression. Results remained stable after controlling for sociodemographic variables. These findings pointed at a paradoxical situation, according to which the most beneficial use of the Internet is the one less adopted.