Internet use and depression among retired older adults in the United States: A longitudinal analysis

Shelia R. Cotten, George Ford, Sherry Ford, Timothy M. Hale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. The purpose of this study is to examine the association between Internet use among retired older adults in the United States and changes in a commonly used predictor of depression (the CES-D). Method. Analyzing data from four waves (2002-2008) of the Health and Retirement Survey, we assess whether an available and commonly used index of a depression state was affected by prior values of the index and Internet use. The sample includes 3,075 respondents observed over 4 waves of data, yielding a total of 12,300 observations. We analyzed the effect on depression of Internet use and past depression in a full sample and a matched sample. We also conducted informal tests for confounders. Finally, we tested a basic mediation model to determine whether Internet use affected depression through its relationship with loneliness and social isolation. Results. Across methods, we found a positive contribution of Internet use to mental well-being of retired older adults in the United States, where Internet use reduced the probability of a depression state by one third. We found no evidence of confounding. Some evidence of mediation was found. Discussion. Our dynamic probit model indicates that for retired older adults in the United States, Internet use was found to reduce the probability of a depressed state by about 33%. Number of people in the household partially mediates this relationship, with the reduction in depression largest for people living alone. This provides some evidence that the mechanism linking Internet use to depression is the remediation of social isolation and loneliness. Encouraging older adults to use the Internet may help decrease isolation and depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)763-771
Number of pages9
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Internet
  • Older adults
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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