|Social Media Communication and Loneliness Among Older Adults: The Mediating Roles of Social Support and Social Contact.
|Year of Publication
|Zhang, K, Kim, K, Silverstein, NM, Song, Q, Burr, JA
|Directed communication, Emotional Health, Internet use, Social Networking Sites
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Social media communication offers a medium for helping older people stay socially and emotionally connected with others. This study investigated the association between social media communication with close social ties and loneliness among community-dwelling older adults. The study also examined the mediating roles of social support and social contact.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Four waves of data from the Health and Retirement Study (2010/2012 and 2014/2016) were used to address the research questions (N = 7,524). A path model was estimated to examine the association between social media communication and older adults' loneliness. We also examined whether the association between social media communication and loneliness was mediated by perceived social support from close social ties (children, other family members, and friends) and frequency of contact with social network members (phone, in-person contact, and writing letters/email).
RESULTS: The results showed that frequent social media communication was associated with lower levels of loneliness, adjusting for previous levels of loneliness. The relationship between social media communication and loneliness was mediated by perceived social support and social contact. Thus, social media communication was associated with higher levels of perceived social support and social contact, which were related to lower levels of loneliness among older adults.
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: These findings suggested that social media communication may be considered an intervention to reduce loneliness among older people by increasing levels of social support and social contact.