Effects of online social networking on the cognitive, social, and emotional health of older adults
AuthorMyhre, Janelle Wohltmann
AdvisorGlisky, Elizabeth L.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractResearch suggests older adults who remain socially active and cognitively engaged have better cognitive function than older adults who are socially isolated and disengaged. Using an online social networking website, like Facebook.com, may require simultaneous cognitive and social engagement, thus yielding improvements in both domains. This study aimed to examine the efficacy of learning and using Facebook as an intervention to maintain or enhance cognitive function in older adults. Results from a small pilot study with 7 older adults suggested there may be positive effects on executive functions and memory following learning and using Facebook. Therefore, a larger and more well-controlled examination of the intervention was completed. Participants were 41 older adults (12 male), with a mean age of 79.4 and 16.5 mean years of education. Participants were assigned to learn how to use Facebook (n = 14) or an online diary website (active control, n = 13), or they were placed on a waitlist (no treatment control, n = 14). Participants assigned to learn a website attended three 2-hour classes over the course of one week and then used the website at home daily for the next 7 weeks. Participants assigned to the waitlist received no contact for 8 weeks. All participants completed a series of neuropsychological tests and questionnaires on social and lifestyle factors before and after this 8-week period. Results showed that all participants were able to learn and use Facebook or an online diary website over an 8-week period. In addition, the Facebook group showed a significant increase in updating performance at post-test compared to no significant change in the control groups. Other composite measures of executive function, memory, and social support showed no differential improvement in the Facebook group across the 8-week interval. Thus, learning and using an online social networking site appeared to provide specific benefits for executive functions associated with working memory in a group of healthy older adults. This may reflect the particular cognitive demands associated with online social networking and/or the benefits of social engagement more generally.
Degree ProgramGraduate College