Television Viewing and Internet Use Habits Among the Elderly Living Alone
“More than 180,000 pensioners go for a whole week without speaking to friends, neighbours [sic], or family” claims an article from the BBC, published in 2000. The article further states that the number of the elderly who feel that nobody knows they exist is several times greater. With such large numbers in the UK alone, the isolated elderly are a continuously growing population. So what do these people do in their free time? How does such isolation affect their everyday lives? Our research hopes to show that elderly people who live alone watch a significantly larger amount of television and use the internet more than elderly people who live with others or young people who live alone. This difference in the amount of time spent with these coping mechanisms in turn causes a greater amount of depression among this population. Elderly people living alone watch more television and use the internet more to manage their loneliness, causing a disproportionate level of depression.
Precious researchers have found that living alone is associated with a higher level of depression among the elderly. This research also finds that the higher the self-reported satisfaction is with the help of family members, among the elderly living alone, the less depressed they are (Mui, 1998). This data suggest that those experiencing more contact with their family, and therefore a higher satisfaction with the help received, are less depressed. Further research shows that elderly individuals living alone are much more likely to be dependent on government support as opposed to the support of their children than those living with others (Chou & Chi, 2000). Research such as this supports the notion that the elderly living alone are not only alone in their living arrangements but are also more alone in their general interactions with family and others. Chou and Chi further find that those living alone score lower on a wide range of questions regarding interactions with others. Furthermore, Chou and Chi’s research supports Mui in finding that the elderly living alone reported more depressive symptoms. Mui also collaborated with Burnette in another study, done in 1994, which further supports this data among a variety of ethnic groups, showing that living alone is a determinant of depression among the elderly. Jongenelis et al. (2004) studied 350 nursing home residents, finding that 46.2% of them suffered from some sort of depression. Among the risk factors they found to be relevant, loneliness and lack of social care ranked very high in terms of correlation with depression.
The research cited shows the loneliness, especially among the elderly, can itself lead to depression. The next question then, is how do these individuals cope with this depression? Many studies have been done on the correlation between television watching and depression and these will be discussed to show a strong relationship between depressive feelings and television watching as a major coping mechanism. Over the last decade, however, internet use and popularity has grown significantly and much research has been done lately about the use of the internet as a method of dealing with loneliness as well.
Kraut et al. (1998) studied the social and psychological impact of internet use on 169 people during their first years of internet use. For many older people, computers are brand new and are still being introduced into their lives. Many community centers and outreach programs exist specifically to help the elderly learn how to use computers and it is reasonable to assume that many elderly will have just started using computers. Although some may argue that the internet provides more social interaction to people, Kraut et al. argue that these communications tend to be with strangers and people that are geographically distant,...