A study in Valencia, Spain, has concluded that frail women are less likely users of information and communication technologies. One of the investigated options was social media, and specifically Whatsapp and Facebook.
The 409 participating women were included in a programme of integrated care, which was designed and performed within the VIGOUR (Evidence-based Guidance to Scale-up Integrated Care in Europe) European Project. The study has been published in the scientific journal Maturitas.
Frailty is a clinically recognizable state in which the ability to cope with stressors is compromised by increased vulnerability brought on by decline in physiological reserve and function. Frail people have an increased risk of hospital admissions, falls, disability, institutionalization and mortality. Being older, or being a woman, are attributes conferring increased risk for frailty. The advantage of diagnosing frailty is that the condition may be slowed, or even reversed. Among the strategies to decrease the burden of frailty, healthy lifestyle, and specifically physical activity and social connectedness, are examples of measures capable of combatting frailty.
ICT contributes to strengthen the empowerment and connectedness of the end user. Both are considered potent enablers to improve adherence to a preferred healthy lifestyle. Moreover, ICT improves the sustainability of the health system. This Is consistent with the efforts by institutions and governmental bodies to digitalize healthcare, such as the European Commission document “Transformation of Health and Care in the Digital Single Market”, in which citizen empowerment and person-centered care occupy a central position.
A cross-sectional study was designed to investigate whether the frailty status was related to ICT use in postmenopausal midlife and older women. Community-dwelling women attending primary health care centers for health checks were invited to participate in the study. All women were postmenopausal and were aged between 40 and 90 years, but the mean age was 67.5 years. The Fried phenotype was used to assess frailty. ICT use examined four options: the internet, distinguishing between e-mail and other functions, and social media (WhatsApp or Facebook).
The results show that ICT use was inversely associated with a frailty status in the referred group of women, which is to say that the non-use of ICT was an independent predictor of frailty in a cohort of midlife and older postmenopausal women. Hence both Internet and social media use are consistently more frequent in those women considered robust. Since the study was cross-sectional, a causality could not be established between ICT use and frailty, so the association might be due to variable/s not considered in the design of the study.