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What do we know about the relationship between internet-mediated interaction and social isolation and loneliness in later life?

Roser Beneito-Montagut (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Nizaiá Cassián-Yde (Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, The Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain)
Arantza Begueria (University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)

Quality in Ageing and Older Adults

ISSN: 1471-7794

Article publication date: 12 March 2018

2070

Abstract

Purpose

Social isolation and loneliness are recognised social, health and wellbeing problems that particularly affect later life. They have been the subject of many recent studies. Studies examining the role of the internet in addressing these problems have multiplied. However, it is still not known whether internet-mediated social interaction has any role in mitigating social isolation and or loneliness. To address this gap, the purpose of this paper is to review previous research that investigates the relationship between internet use for communication and social isolation and loneliness.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper reviews the empirical literature published since 2000 and expands on previous literature reviews by including a variety of research designs and disciplines.

Findings

Despite the recent increase in studies, there is still little evidence to show internet effects on social isolation and loneliness. It is concluded that future research programmes aimed at reducing them by the use of the internet should include more robust methodological and theoretical frameworks, employ longitudinal research designs and provide a more nuanced description of both the social phenomena (social isolation and loneliness) and internet-mediated social interaction.

Originality/value

Previous reviews are not restricted to internet-based studies and include several types of interventions aiming at reducing social isolation and/or loneliness. They do not attempt to disentangle the internet effects of social isolation and loneliness.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: this research received support from the Recercaixa/ACUP (Spain) under Grant No. 2012ACUP-00325.

The authors like to thank three anonymous reviewers and the editor for helpful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this article. Any remaining errors are of the authors’ own.

Citation

Beneito-Montagut, R., Cassián-Yde, N. and Begueria, A. (2018), "What do we know about the relationship between internet-mediated interaction and social isolation and loneliness in later life?", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 14-30. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAOA-03-2017-0008

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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