The Internet has been blamed for a lot of things, like distraction, short attention span and anxiety. However, researchers from the UK's Chartered Institute of IT (BCS) have concluded that there is a link between Internet usage and a sense of well-being. The study reveals, though, that the happiness effect benefits some demographic groups much more than others.
The Trajectory Partnership, the organization which collected the data, studied 35,000 people worldwide. They compared gender, income and other social and economic values, finding that having access to information technology empowered people, regardless of age. However, the level of happiness was greater among low-income communities, developing countries and women.
Access to the information highway gives disadvantaged communities a sense of security, control, freedom and influence. "If you introduce a technology [in the developing world], whether it is the Internet or the cell phone, that allows people to reduce their very high [constraints] of getting through daily life, it has a tremendous well-being affect," Carol Graham, chair in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., told Time.
Women seem to get their satisfaction out of life-simplification tools and online communications. Females tend to be the organizing party in the home and find the Internet and other applications to be helpful in getting things done. It also makes it easier to maintain relationships through email, social networking, forums and the like.
Women in poorer communities or developing countries, therefore, benefit two-fold. Graham added, "IT gives them communication with the outside world, access to networks and so on. Friendships are very important to well-being as well, and one can imagine e-mail and IT being a good way to maintain those, particularly in contexts where telephones and transport are far from ideal or reliable."
While the study results bring good news about Internet usage, the fact remains that the web and other technologies are still not available in many places, especially in those poorer areas that could really benefit. The BCS hopes the findings will continue to spur research into how IT can better serve everyone, bridging the digital divide.
Story by Katie Leavitt. Originally published at Tonic
Photo by manmadepants/flickr Flickr.
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