Diversity of purposes of use, time spent online, and depression among older Chinese Internet users

Jia LI, Qi WANG*, Xiaochen ZHOU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Objectives: Previous studies on the associations between Internet use and older people’s depression have mostly focused on single types of online activities, especially online social engagement. The current study investigated the diversity of purposes of Internet use and its interaction with the time spent online in shaping older Chinese Internet users’ depression.

Method: A sample of 974 Internet users aged 60 and above was adopted from the 2020 China Family Panel Studies wave. We adopted a latent class analysis (LCA) to explore the diverse purposes of internet usage.

Results: The participants were classified into three distinct types: socializers, basic users, and maximizers. Basic users and maximizers use the Internet for various purposes, despite different intensities; socializers use the Internet only to keep connected with families and friends. Compared with basic users and maximizers, a longer time spent online among socializers was significantly associated with a higher level of depression.

Conclusion: This study calls for a closer examination of online profiles among older Internet users; more attention should be paid to the potential harms of excessive Internet use for social reasons only among older adults. Practitioners should enhance older Internet users’ digital literacy to maximize the wide-range benefits of Internet use and reduce potential health inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalAging and Mental Health
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Internet use diversity
  • older Chinese adults
  • depression
  • time spent online


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