Internet use and cohort change in social connectedness among older adults

TitleInternet use and cohort change in social connectedness among older adults
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsAng, S
JournalAdvances in Life Course Research
ISSN Number1040-2608
KeywordsCohort change, Internet use, Social connectedness

Social connections are an integral part of living in society, and trends in social connectedness are thus closely scrutinized. The phenomenon of networked individualism argues that densely knit communities organized around formal social groups such as households and workplaces are becoming less common. Due to advances in technology, individuals are able to develop personalized communities that are more diverse and less geographically-bound. The objective of this study was to determine how both average levels and the variability of social connectedness have changed across cohorts, and how much of this is due to increased internet use. Data from 2006, 2008, 2016, and 2018 waves of the Health and Retirement Study were used to investigate cohort changes in various indicators of social connectedness. The analytical sample consisted of older adults aged 58–69 from the Silent Generation (born 1920–1947) and Baby Boomers (born 1948–1965). Heteroscedastic regression models and decomposition methods were used to investigate the role of increased internet use in driving some of these changes. Findings suggest that increases in internet use was associated with increases in the variance of social participation (i.e., contact with friends and family) in the United States. However, evidence around more subjective measures of social connectedness (i.e., social support, loneliness) was less clear. Future research should seek to understand how cohort change in technological use may affect objective and subjective aspects of social connectedness in different ways.

Citation KeyANG2022100514