Expanding the Research Infrastructure to Study the Use and Outcomes of the Internet and Social Media in Middle-age and Older Adults (2013-2014)

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Funded by National Academy of Sciences

Funding Years: 2013-2014.

The internet broadly, and social media in particular, are revolutionizing how people form relationships, interact, and give and receive support, with potential wide-ranging implications for the psychological and physical health of both children and older adults. However, very little research has analyzed the use and outcomes of the internet/social media among middle-age and older adults (those aged 50+). This project greatly expands the opportunities for future research in this area by establishing a multidisciplinary network of graduate students, junior faculty, and senior faculty to identify key research questions and the data needed to answer those questions. Specifically, we will: (1) Develop new collaborations at the University of Michigan between Kenneth Langa, MD, PhD (Medical School, School of Public Health, and Institute for Social Research) and Nicole Ellison, PhD (School of Information) to link their respective expertise in the use and outcomes of social media and large-scale survey research on health and function in middle-age and older adults. (2) Organize a multidisciplinary conference of researchers and funders (e.g., NIA/NIH) to establish new collaborations, identify high-priority research questions, and assess current road-blocks, opportunities, and data needs for future research. And (3) analyze data from the Health and Retirement Study on the current use of the internet in a national sample of adults aged 50 years and older. These activities will expand and strengthen collaborations that started at the 2012 “Informed Brain in a Digital World” Keck Futures Conference.

PI(s): Ken Langa, Nicole Ellison