BACKGROUND: In-person religious service attendance has been linked to favorable health and well-being outcomes. However, little research has examined whether online religious participation improves these outcomes, especially when in-person attendance is suspended. METHODS: Using longitudinal data of 8951 UK adults, this study prospectively examined the association between frequency of online religious participation during the stringent lockdown in the UK (23 March -13 May 2020) and 21 indicators of psychological well-being, social well-being, pro-social/altruistic behaviors, psychological distress, and health behaviors. All analyses adjusted for baseline socio-demographic characteristics, pre-pandemic in-person religious service attendance, and prior values of the outcome variables whenever data were available. Bonferroni correction was used to correct for multiple testing. RESULTS: Individuals with online religious participation of ≥1/week (v. those with no participation at all) during the lockdown had a lower prevalence of thoughts of self-harm in week 20 (odds ratio 0.24; 95% CI 0.09-0.62). Online religious participation of <1/week (v. no participation) was associated with higher life satisfaction (standardized ß = 0.25; 0.11-0.39) and happiness (standardized ß = 0.25; 0.08-0.42). However, there was little evidence for the associations between online religious participation and all other outcomes (e.g. depressive symptoms and anxiety). CONCLUSIONS: There was evidence that online religious participation during the lockdown was associated with some subsequent health and well-being outcomes. Future studies should examine mechanisms underlying the inconsistent results for online v. in-person religious service attendance and also use data from non-pandemic situations.
Evidence on the association between internet usage and incidence of depression remains mixed. We examined the associations between different categories of internet usage and developing clinical depression. We used data from the 2013 and 2016 waves of the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES) comprising 12,333 physically and cognitively independent adults aged ≥65 years. Participants were engaged in seven categories of internet usage: communication with friends/family, social media, information collection about health/medicine, searching for medical facilities, purchase of drugs and vitamins, shopping, and banking. We found that internet use for communication had a protective influence on the probability of developing clinical depression defined as the Geriatric Depression Scale scores ≥5 or self-reported diagnosed depression. Our findings support the role of online communication with friends/family in preventing clinical depression among older people. Online communication could be particularly useful in the COVID-19 crisis because many families are geographically dispersed and/or socially distanced.