Using Skype to Beat the Blues: Longitudinal Data from a National Representative Sample

Alan R. Teo, Sheila Markwardt, Ladson Hinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study aimed to determine whether use of certain types of online communication technology is associated with subsequent depressive symptoms. Design: Nationally representative, population-based prospective cohort. Setting: Data were obtained from the 2012 and 2014 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Participants: 1,424 community-residing older adults (mean age, 64.8) in the United States. Measurements: We examined associations between use of four communication technologies (email, social networks, video chat, and instant messaging) in 2012 and depressive symptoms (eight-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale) at two-year follow-up. Results: 564 participants (39.6%) did not use any communication technologies, 314 (22.1%) used email only, and 255 (17.9%) used video chat (e.g., Skype). Compared to non-users (13.1%, 95% CI: 9.5-16.7%) or those who used only email (14.3%, 95% CI: 10.1-18.5%), users of video chat had approximately half the probability of depressive symptoms (6.9%, 95% CI: 3.5-10.3%, Wald Chi 2 test, Chi 2 (1) =13.82, p < 0.001; 7.6%, 95% CI: 3.6-11.6, Wald Chi 2 test, Chi 2 (1) =13.56, p < 0.001). Use of email, social media, and instant messaging were not associated with a lower risk of depression. Conclusions: Older adults who use video chat such as Skype, but not other common communication technologies, have a lower risk of developing depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-262
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Health and Retirement Survey
  • aging
  • communication technology
  • computer-mediated communication
  • depression
  • major depressive disorder
  • social interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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