Staying connected in old age: associations between bonding social capital, loneliness and well-being and the value of digital media

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Objectives: We examined associations between age, bonding social capital (BSC), loneliness and psychological, social and emotional well-being in old age. As in theory digital media can support both preservation of and access to someone’s social capital, we also explored associations between the use of WhatsApp, social network sites (SNS) and Internet applications and respectively BSC and loneliness. Method: In this cross-sectional study a sample of 349 older adults (range=70y 93y; Mean(SD)=74.8y(4.9y); 59.6% male) filled out a questionnaire including the bonding social capital subscale of the personal social capital scale for elderly (PSCSE), validated scales measuring social, emotional, and psychological well-being and loneliness, the SNS intensity scale and items measuring frequencies of Whatsapp use and use of various Internet functions. Also relevant demographic and other covariates were included. Results: Regression analyses including relevant covariates confirmed our hypotheses, finding negative associations between BSC and both age and loneliness, and positive associations between BSC and psychological, social and emotional well-being. WhatsApp and Internet use were both found positively associated with BSC, whilst a negative association between WhatsApp use and loneliness was found. SNS use was not associated with BSC nor with loneliness. Conclusion: Our findings indicate BSC as an important factor in positive aging and illustrate a widening gap between the need for socio-emotional resources versus their availability. With regard to digital media, we conclude that its value in old age should be sought in providing access to one’s
bonding social capital rather than adding to it by expanding the number of social relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-155
Number of pages9
JournalAging & Mental Health
Issue number1
Early online date14 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Social capital
  • digital media
  • elderly
  • loneliness
  • well-being


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