SILVER surfers who spend time online are less likely to suffer from depression, according to a new study.

Researchers found internet use among older people can reduce the chances of depression by more than 30%. Depression among the elderly - often brought on by feelings of loneliness and isolation - is becoming an increasing concern with more people living on their own.

However, a project that followed the lives of thousands of retired Americans for six years found internet use can reduce the chances of depression by more than 30%. Project leader Doctor Shelia Cotten, a Michigan State University professor of telecommunication, information studies and media, said: "That's a very strong effect. And it all has to do with older persons being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their social networks, and just not feel lonely."

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The study, based on data from 3000 older people, was "one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of its kind", Dr Cotten said.

The research was published in the Journal of Gerontology.