|Title||Examining Rural and Racial Disparities in the Relationship Between Loneliness and Social Technology Use Among Older Adults|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2021|
|Authors||Byrne, KA, Anaraky, RGhaiumy, Dye, C, Ross, LA, Madathil, KChalil, Knijnenburg, B, Levkoff, S|
|Journal||Frontiers in Public Health|
|Keywords||Disparities, Loneliness, rurality, Technology|
Loneliness, the subjective negative experience derived from a lack of meaningful companionship, is associated with heightened vulnerability to adverse health outcomes among older adults. Social technology affords an opportunity to cultivate social connectedness and mitigate loneliness. However, research examining potential inequalities in loneliness is limited. This study investigates racial and rural-urban differences in the relationship between social technology use and loneliness in adults aged 50 and older using data from the 2016 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (N = 4,315). Social technology use was operationalized as the self-reported frequency of communication through Skype, Facebook, or other social media with family and friends. Loneliness was assessed using the UCLA Loneliness scale, and rural-urban differences were based on Beale rural-urban continuum codes. Examinations of race focused on differences between Black/African-American and White/Caucasian groups. A path model analysis was performed to assess whether race and rurality moderated the relationship between social technology use and loneliness, adjusting for living arrangements, age, general computer usage. Social engagement and frequency of social contact with family and friends were included as mediators. The primary study results demonstrated that the association between social technology use and loneliness differed by rurality, but not race. Rural older adults who use social technology less frequently experience greater loneliness than urban older adults. This relationship between social technology and loneliness was mediated by social engagement and frequency of social contact. Furthermore, racial and rural-urban differences in social technology use demonstrated that social technology use is less prevalent among rural older adults than urban and suburban-dwelling older adults; no such racial differences were observed. However, Black older adults report greater levels of perceived social negativity in their relationships compared to White older adults. Interventions seeking to address loneliness using social technology should consider rural and racial disparities.