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Social media may aid mental health in older adults with pain

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Use of social media can reduce depression and other negative mental side effects that result from long-term pain in older adults, researchers in the US have suggested.

They noted that many older people experienced a decrease in social activity outside of their homes as a consequence of pain.

“The onset of pain can often lead to a downward spiral of social isolation and depression”

Shannon Ang

This isolation was detrimental to healthy aging, because of its negative impact on cognitive function and mental wellbeing, noted the study authors from the University of Michigan.

They also highlighted that older adults who experienced pain and subsequently became isolated from face-to-face communication increased their likelihood of experiencing loneliness and depression.

Their study addressed the cycle of pain causing older adults to lose motivation for social interaction, increasing likelihood of depression, which again lowers motivation for social activity.

To determine social media’s impact on this cycle, the researchers surveyed more than 3,400 participants over the age of 65, focusing on their general use of social media.

“Our results may be possibly extended to other forms of conditions”

Shannon Ang

The results, published in The Journals of Gerontology, found that use of social media lowered the risk of depression in cases where social interaction had been inhibited by pain.

In addition, the researchers suggested that social media use may even preserve cognitive function and psychological well-being.

Lead author Shannon Ang said: “This is critical because the onset of pain can often lead to a downward spiral of social isolation and depression, resulting in adverse outcomes for the health of older adults.

“Our results may be possibly extended to other forms of conditions (e.g. chronic illnesses, functional limitations) that, like pain, also restrict physical activity outside of the home,” she added.

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