Social isolation, loneliness and lack of emotional support are just some of the reasons depression levels tend to rise in old age.
A U.S study involving 8,000 men and women over the age of 50 showed that depression levels were highest among the over-80s and lowest at the age of 45.
Results also revealed that the prevalence of depression increased by 8% between the ages of 70 and 85.
The study, conducted by the University of Illinois, is so far the biggest of its kind to explore the effects of Internet use on the mental health of older people.
Volunteers were asked about their Internet habits before being assessed for mental illness. Research leader Dr Shelia Cotten revealed that those who used social networking sites were significantly less likely to suffer from depression.
Statistics from the Pew Research Centre show that a third of over-65s in the USA use social networking sites, compared to 6% just three years ago.
Social networking sites allow elderly people to keep in touch with their friends and family even when mobility problems prevent them from leaving the house.
Another study found that Internet use may stimulate nerve-cell activity and therefore boost brain functionality in elderly people.
Nicola Adams of the University of Surrey said: ‘The internet provides an important tool for the rapidly increasing older population to lead independent lives, to keep in touch with friends and family and to make informed decisions on many issues from health to travel.’
Counselling can be an effective tool for those suffering from age-related depression. To find out more, please visit our Depression page.
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