Video calls may be more harmful to 60+ individuals than having no contact at all with their dear ones. The researchers studied 5,148 people aged 60 or over in the UK and 1,391 in the US, both before and during the pandemic to arrive at the conclusions.
A study published in Frontiers in Sociology says that virtual contact during the pandemic has made many 60+ individuals feeling lonelier and more depressed.
While Zoom calls, online book clubs, and video calls have helped people stay in touch with family and friends during the lockdown, older people experienced a greater increase in loneliness and long-term mental health disorders due to online socialising.
Charity director at Age UK, Caroline Abrahams said that loneliness can exacerbate illnesses and kill a person by undermining the resilience to other health threats.
The co-author of the report, Dr Yang Hu of Lancaster University told The Guardian that the researchers were surprised to find that an older person who had virtual contact experienced greater negative mental health impacts than people who had zero contact. He added that the team was expecting opposite results.
Dr Hu thinks that the reason for this negative impact is that older people who are unfamiliar with technology find virtual contact stressful. However, those who were comfortable with using technology also found extensive use of it stressful and damaging. "The results are very consistent. Extensive exposure to digital means of communication can also cause burnout," he added.
Authors suggested that the world needs better preparedness for disasters and find safer ways to have face-to-face contact in future emergencies. Dr Hu said that policymakers and practitioners need to take measures to pre-empt and mitigate the potential unintended implications of household-centred pandemic responses for mental wellbeing, reported The Guardian.