What do we know about the relationship between internet-mediated interaction and social isolation and loneliness in later life?
BENEITO-MONTAGUT Roser, CASSIAN-YDE Nizaia, BEGUERIA Arantza
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. (Publisher abstract)