Internet Use and Depression Among the Elderly
Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Paper No. 38
29 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2009
Date Written: October 15, 2009
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 directs over $7 billion to expand broadband Internet availability and adoption in the United States. One target of such funding is the elderly population, a group of Americans for which broadband adoption is relatively low. An interesting question is what benefits do such efforts afford? We employ a dataset of over 7,000 elderly retired persons to evaluate the role of Internet use on mental well-being. Well-being is measured using the eight-point depression scale developed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies (CES-D). Empirical techniques include single equation regression, instrumental variables and propensity score methods. All procedures indicate a positive contribution of Internet use to mental well-being of elderly Americans, and estimates indicate that Internet use leads to about a 20% reduction in depression classification. As depression is estimated to cost the United States about $100 billion annually, expanding Internet use among the elderly may have significant economic payoffs.
Keywords: Elderly, Broadband, Depression, CES-D, Internet, Communications, Propensity Score, Matching, Instrumental Variables, Economic Development
JEL Classification: A10, C1, C3, D1, H30, H4, I1, L96
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