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Computer‐mediated communication found to foster social functioning among older adults

Fuss B, Dorstyn D, Ward L. Computer-mediated communication and social support among community-dwelling older adults: A systematic review of cross-sectional data Australasian Journal on Ageing. 2019; 38(4): e103-e113.

Review question

      What is the relationship between computer‐mediated communication and social functioning among community‐dwelling older adults?

Background

      Old age is associated with an increased risk of experiencing loneliness and social isolation, which may contribute to poorer health, higher rates of hospitalization, and greater mortality.

      Improved social functioning, including social relationships, supports, and self-perceived social connectedness, can help to promote general health and well‐being.

      One form of social interaction gaining attention today is computer‐mediated communication, which has been studied since the early 2000s.

      This systematic review examines the relationship between computer‐mediated communication and social functioning among community-dwelling older adults.

How the review was done

      Review authors conducted a detailed search of three research databases for eligible studies published before December 2018.

      The search terms included the population of interest (older adults), the intervention (use of computer‐mediated communication) and the outcome (social functioning).

      Authors also examined the reference lists of eligible articles to ensure that no relevant studies were missed.

      Overall, a total of 4,140 articles were identified, of which 15 studies and two dissertations were included in the review.

      The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

What the researchers found

      Overall, the findings of this systematic review provided some evidence of a positive, albeit subtle, relationship between computer‐mediated communication and social functioning.

      Review authors found that computer‐mediated communication fosters greater social support, which in turn leads to a greater use of computer-mediated communication.

      Evidence suggested that computer‐mediated communication may be a way for friends to arrange face‐to‐face meetings. To this end, social support and social connectedness may be related to the frequency of both offline and online social contacts between older adults.

      The findings from this review complement recent literature, suggesting that computer‐mediated communication may provide favourable social outcomes for older adults, including positive mood, through its use as a social connecting tool.

Conclusion

      The findings suggested that adequate levels of social support and connectedness may facilitate computer‐mediated communication which, in turn, may foster social functioning.

      Future research can extend on these findings by exploring whether computer‐mediated communication can help protect against life stressors such as driving cessation in older age, which is a common cause of loneliness and changes to perceived self‐efficacy among older adults.




Glossary

Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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