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
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
Number of pages10
JournalAging & Mental Health
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2022


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


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