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Call for Research into How Social Media Addiction Affects the Elderly

Dominique Adams


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In the wake of no scroll-September, charities and psychologists are calling for more research into the effect of social media on older generations.

As the first ever social media detox initiative dubbed Scroll Free September kicks-off, a campaign to call for further study into the effect of social media on older people is also underway.

The campaign, which is being led by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), believes further study of the negative and additive impact of social media must be carried out as there is little recorded data on how older people are being impacted.

Depression, addiction, anxiety, sleep disorders, eye problems and loneliness are just a few of the negative effects that have been linked to social media overuse. While there has been a considerable amount of research into the impact of being online on younger generations, especially on teenagers, those over 25 years of age are often neglected in terms of research.

A 2017 paper by Nielsen in the US pointed to Generation X spending the most time on social media of all generations. According to the paper, Generation X spends almost seven hours per week on social media platforms.

Further Research Required

RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer CBE said: “One of the questions we would have is about role modelling, so when you’ve got family with young children or teenagers, I think we’re not thinking as parents. How are we role modelling this? Are we sitting at dinner scrolling through our social media or tweeting, and what effect is this having on our children?

“I do think there needs to be some more research around adults, but I think where we see the real evidence and damage potential is with children and young people.”

Ofcom has reported a record number of older people embracing smart and social technology, with half of online baby boomers taking to social media. Nearly half (48%) of internet users aged 6574 now have a social media profile.

Among over 75s, the proportion with a profile has nearly doubled – from 19% to 41%. Around nine in ten (87%) social seniors aged over 65 opt for a Facebook account, but a smaller proportion use WhatsApp (6%) and Instagram (1%). As older generations increasingly enter the social media sphere it is important the potential negative impacts are understood to try and mitigate them before they become a serious mental health problem.

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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