Older people who regularly surf websites such as Twitter and Facebook are less likely to suffer depression, according to researchers in the US.
The study, completed by the University of Alabama, shows that over-50s who regularly use social networking websites are a third less likely to develop depression than those who do not.
Almost 8,000 men and women in this age group took part in the survey, which is the biggest yet on the health effects of internet use among older people.
The participants were first quizzed about their web habits before being tested for mental illness.
These findings highlight the benefits of using the internet regularly when compared with previous studies that show depression rates tend to increase with age.
'Our findings suggest that internet use has a positive effect on depression,' says Dr Shelia Cotten, who led the research at the University of Alabama and other centres.
Meanwhile, US think-tank Pew Research Centre has also revealed that more older people have started going online, with more than a third of over-65s now using social networks, which is up from 6% in 2009.
There has also been a rise in the number of over-65s using Twitter, as 6% of web users in this age group now log on to the popular network.
Researchers explained the internet can be a great tool for older people with poor mobility to stay in touch with friends and family.
Nichola Adams, whose research at the University of Surrey has explored what is stopping some older people from accessing the web, said: 'The internet provides an important tool for the rapidly increasing older population to lead independent lives, to keep in touch with friends and family and to make informed decisions on many issues from health to travel.'
Copyright Press Association 2012