HEALTH (BRAIN): *** Adults using Internet regularly lower their risk of dementia ***

Older adults who use the internet regularly have half the risk of dementia compared to non-regular users

A longitudinal study of a large group of older adults showed that regular internet users had approximately half the risk of dementia compared to their same-age peers who did not use the internet regularly even when considering differences for education, ethnicity, sex, generation, and signs of cognitive decline at the start of the study. Participants using the internet 6 minutes to 2 hours per day had the lowest risk of dementia. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Internet not problematic
Public discussions about internet use often revolve around problematic internet use, particularly among children and adolescents. Studies often link large amounts of time spent on the internet with various adverse conditions. However, the internet also forms the backbone of modern economy and entertainment. It provides lots of cognitively engaging content that is relatively easy to access.

Studies have shown that online engagement can make individuals more resilient against physiological damage to the brain that develops as people age. This can help older adults compensate for brain aging and reduce the risk of dementia.

Study details
Previous studies have shown that internet users tend to have better overall cognitive performance, verbal reasoning, and memory than non-users. However, most of these studies did not track changes over time or tracked them for very short periods. Thus, it could not be determined whether internet use helps maintain cognitive functioning or whether individuals with better cognitive functioning were more likely to use the internet.

Study author Gawon Cho and his colleagues wanted to examine:

  • how the risk of developing dementia is associated with whether adults regularly use the internet;
  • how this association changes over time and
  • how the total period of internet use in late adulthood is associated with the risk of dementia;
  • if there might be an adverse effect of excessive internet use (examining the risk of dementia and the daily number of hours spent on the internet).

They analyzed data from the Health and Retirement study, an ongoing survey of a nationally representative sample of U.S. older-age adults.

The study authors analyzed data of 18,154 participants, all born before 1966, aged 50 – 65 years. The follow period was 8 years but it went up to 17 years with some. Data were mostly collected between 2002 and 2018.

The study interviewed participants every second year about their internet usage:

  • “Do you regularly use the World Wide Web or the Internet for e-mailing or for any other purposes such as purchases, searching for information, or travel arrangements?”).
  • Additionally, participants were asked about their daily hours of internet usage.

Testing results
Results showed:

  • 65% approx. of participants were regular Internet users
  • 35% were non-regular users
  • 21% changed their internet use habits during the study period
  • 53% did not change them
  • 26% remaining either dropped out, died during the follow-up period or developed dementia.
  • 5% of participants developed dementia during the study period
  • 8% died or experienced another event due to which they were excluded from further analysis.

Internet users vs. non-users

  • Regular internet users at the start of the study had a 1.54% risk of developing dementia
  • non-regular users of internet had 10.45% risk of developing dementia;
  • Regular internet users had 57% risk compared to non-users
    [adults who regularly used the internet experienced approximately half the risk of dementia than adults who did not]

The study, “Internet usage and the prospective risk of dementia: A population-based cohort study”, was authored by Gawon Cho, Rebecca A. Betensky, and Virginia W. Chang.

This entry was posted in .HEALTH, .HODGE PODGE, .NEWS - General, .SENIORS, .TECHNOLOGY. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *