Improving older people’s life satisfaction via social networking
site use: Evidence from China
School of e-Commerce and Logistics Management, Henan
University of Economics and Law, Zhengzhou, China
Objective: This study aimed to examine the pathways by
which social networking sites (SNSs) can improve older
people’s life satisfaction.
Methods: We conducted an online survey in China that
lasted eight weeks. Respondents were required to report
their demographic characteristics and feelings regarding
SNS use. Data were analysed using SPSS 20 and Amos 21.
Results: We collected 596 valid samples. The empirical
results show that SNS use improves older people’s life
satisfaction by reducing their loneliness and improving
their self-efﬁcacy. Social support alleviates the negative
effect of loneliness and enhances the positive effect of self-
efﬁcacy on life satisfaction. Sex differences and education
differences were signiﬁcant. Men and less educated people
had higher levels of life satisfaction.
Conclusion: Policymakers should offer support to SNSs
targeting older people and encourage them to provide more
useful services. SNS operators should encourage social
support among older users and pay attention to sex
differences and education differences.
Policy Impact: Policymakers should provide support to
social networking sites (SNSs) targeting older people,
because SNS use can reduce loneliness and improve self-
efﬁcacy and thus improve life satisfaction.
Practice Impact: Social networking site operators
should encourage mutual social support, because social
support can alleviate the negative effects of loneliness
and enhance the positive effect of self-efﬁcacy.
Key words: aged, personal satisfaction, sex characteristics,
social media, social support.
During the past few decades, we have witnessed an explo-
sive growth of Internet use among older people in many
developed countries and some less developed countries [1–
4]. For example, in the United States, social media use
among those 65 and older reached 35% in 2015, more
than tripling since 2010 . In Australia, more and more
older people have begun to use the Internet for interper-
sonal communication, information seeking, commerce and
entertainment . In China, Internet users older than
55 years have become a non-negligible group in China’s
online market . As general Internet use has increased in
popularity, online applications, such as virtual communities
and social networking sites (SNSs) in particular, have
become older people’s favourite online applications [6,7].
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are
believed to have signiﬁcant effects on reducing older peo-
ple’s social isolation and improving their social connected-
ness [2,8]. Ageing can be associated with negative changes,
for example having fewer social contacts and experiencing
greater loneliness , experiencing physical and mental
decline or being less active . SNS use can help older
people to cope with these changes. SNSs are web-based ser-
vices ‘that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-
public proﬁle within a bounded system, articulate a list of
other users with whom they share a connection, and view
and traverse their list of connections and those made by
others within the system’ [11; p.211]. SNS use can offer
older people new opportunities to participate in various
activities, make new friends or enrich their late life and
thus improve their life satisfaction . However, prior
research has mainly focused on the direct effect of SNS use
on older people’s life satisfaction [13,14]. We need more
studies to examine the paths by which SNS use improves
older people’s life satisfaction, because understanding older
people’s SNS use behaviours can provide insight in how to
manage them in the future .
Our review of the literature has identiﬁed two potential
underlying paths. SNSs are based in collections of relation-
ships. Older people can use SNSs to maintain their tradi-
tional ofﬂine social ties (e.g. family, relatives or friends)
[6,13,14], make new friends and enlarge their activity net-
works . This enlarged social network can reduce older
people’s loneliness  and overcome their low satisfaction
. We name this path ‘SNS use ? less loneliness ?
more life satisfaction’. As they age, many older people can
easily develop a sense that they are ‘old and useless’, and
have lower level of self-conﬁdence. However, SNS use
allows people to view and upload photographs or videos
, interact and collaborate with other members  or
learn new tricks . These activities provide older people
with many opportunities to observe and imitate other
members’ online behaviour. They can learn how to
Correspondence to: Dr Junjie Zhou, School of e-Commerce and
Logistics Management, Henan University of Economics and Law.
Australasian Journal on Ageing, Vol 37 No 1 March 2018, E23–E28
2018 AJA Inc.