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    The internet is increasingly commonly used by older adults. However, it remains controversial in the literature on whether older people are more or less lonely with internet adoption. The current paper aims to test the longitudinal association of internet use and loneliness and to theorize the relationship by examining the mediating effect of social contact. This study employed data from 2006, 2010, and 2014 waves of the Health and Retirement Study. Loneliness was measured with the three-item UCLA loneliness scale, social contact was operationalized as contact frequency with family and friends, and internet use was measured using a self-assessed dichotomous item. Longitudinal associations and mediation effects were tested using hierarchical linear modeling. Internet use was associated with decreased loneliness over an 8-year period (b = -0.049, p < .001) and more social contact (b = 0.285, p < .001), which was related to lower perceived loneliness (b = -0.088, p < .001). On a scale ranges from 0 to 2 (0 = never lonely, 2 = often lonely), the total effect of internet use on loneliness was -0.060, and the mediated effect was -0.025. These findings imply that internet use may be an effective tool for reducing loneliness in older people by maintaining social contact. © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.

    Citation

    Kexin Yu, Shinyi Wu, Iris Chi. Internet Use and Loneliness of Older Adults Over Time: The Mediating Effect of Social Contact. The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences. 2021 Feb 17;76(3):541-550


    PMID: 31942629

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