Uses and Gratifications Sought from Mobile Phone Use and Mental Health Outcomes Among Japanese Middle-aged and Older Adults: A Mediation Analysis
Introduction. The recent decade has witnessed rapid development and widespread use of the mobile phone, and Japan is one of the leading countries in mobile phone technology. Older Japanese adults have high prevalence of loneliness, while they have been obtaining mobile phones at increased rates. Mobile phone use and loneliness is an understudied while important research area among older adult population. This study examines three heterogeneous older adult groups, divided by age, gender, and functional limitations, and research on how mobile phone use affects their loneliness, respectively. Out study further examines how does face-to-face social interaction play a mediating role in the relationship.
Methods. Data were drawn from a national probability sample of 1,575 Japanese middle aged and older adults (M age=61.03, SD = 11.90, Range = 40–96). Two-stage stratified random sampling was used. Respondents completed a mail survey regarding their attitudes towards technology and health and well-being outcomes. Guided by Uses and Gratifications and social support theories, seemingly unrelated regression models and mediation analysis was used to test study hypotheses.
Results. Among full study sample, using a mobile phone for sociability purposes was associated with decreased loneliness (β=-.07, p<.001), and using it for the purposes of entertainment/passing time was associated with higher levels of loneliness (β =.02, p<.05). However, the influence was found to be stronger among younger, healthier, and female populations. Face-to-face social interaction was found to significant mediate the relationships between sociability (β=.07, p<.05), reassurance (β=.11, p<.001), pass time (β=-.09, p<.001), instrumentality (β=.08, p<.001) and loneliness.
Conclusion. Whether mobile phone usage supports or undermines mental health of midlife and older adults may depend partly on the purposes for which the mobile phones are being used, and these effects seem to be operating through actual face-to-face social interactions. Clinical programs to treat older adults’ loneliness might take into consideration the heterogeneities of the population. Recommendations for enhancing the positive effects of mobile phone usage are discussed.