Does internet access make a difference for older adults’ cognition in urban China? The moderating role of living arrangements

Ying Li, Wen Jui Han, Miao Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Since the mid-1990s, information technology, particularly the diffusion of the internet, has brought tremendous changes to communication and social participation for people in China, including older adults. At the same time, modernisation and urbanisation have transformed the way many people in China live. The traditional multigenerational household—older adults living with adult children and grandchildren—is giving way to other living arrangements, such as living alone or with a spouse only. Using wave 1 of the World Health Organization Study on Global AGEing and Adult Health collected between 2007 and 2010, we examined the extent to which home internet access might be associated with cognitive function in older adults aged 50 or over in urban China (N = 5,898), paying attention to the moderating role of living arrangements. We found that home internet access was associated with better cognitive function, and living arrangements played an essential role in such an association for different age groups. Specifically, older adults living alone benefited cognitively from internet access, particularly among those aged 50–64 and 65–74. Those living with a spouse only and those in two-generation households benefited cognitively from internet access, particularly among those aged 50–64 and 75+. Older adults age 75+ in skip-generation households benefited cognitively from internet access. Considering the trend of older adults living apart from their children, our research suggests that providing internet access to older adults in urban China, especially those living alone, could help protect their cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • China
  • cognitive function
  • internet access
  • older adults
  • WHO SAGE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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