The Surprising Link Between Internet Usage and Reduced Dementia Risk in Older Adults

Sydney Codrington
May 17, 2023

The impact of internet usage on cognitive health, particularly in older adults, has been a subject of debate. While some worry about the potential negative effects of excessive screen time, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has unveiled a fascinating finding: regular internet usage among older adults is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing dementia. Let's delve into the details of this groundbreaking study and explore its implications.

Study Reveals a Protective Effect of Internet Usage

The study, conducted by a team of researchers using data from the Health and Retirement Study, aimed to understand the relationship between internet usage and the risk of dementia in older adults. Over a median follow-up period of 7.9 years, the study followed a group of dementia-free adults aged 50 to 64.9, comprising a total of 18,154 participants.

Results: Lower Dementia Risk Among Regular Internet Users

The findings of the study were striking. 

Regular internet users exhibited approximately half the risk of developing dementia compared to non-regular users. Even after accounting for factors such as self-selection into baseline usage and signs of cognitive decline at the study's onset, the association between internet usage and reduced dementia risk remained significant.

Cumulative Internet Usage and Late-Life Cognitive Impairment

The study also investigated whether the cumulative period of regular internet usage played a role in modifying dementia risk. The results indicated that longer periods of regular internet usage in late adulthood were associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment. This finding suggests that continuous engagement with the internet as individuals age may have protective effects on cognitive health.

Daily Hours of Usage and Dementia Risk

While the study observed a beneficial association between regular internet usage and dementia risk, it also found that the relationship between daily hours of usage and dementia incidence followed a U-shaped curve. The sample sizes for adults who spend 0.1-2 hours on the internet daily were too small to produce statistically significant results, despite them having the lowest risk.

Implications and Future Research

Regular internet users demonstrated a remarkable reduction in the risk of developing dementia, suggesting that technology and internet-based activities could play a role in maintaining brain health as we age. However, the study suggests that more research is needed to investigate the link between the frequency of device usage and the risk of developing dementia, as there is still much to be uncovered.

Older adults can benefit from a variety of social networks, including social media platforms or virtual communities such as SecureSeniorConnections®, to improve their social and cognitive health. The great thing about virtual connections is that it's accessible from any location, meaning more older adults have the opportunity to use this method to reduce their risk of dementia and other illnesses connected to social isolation and loneliness.

As technology continues to advance, it is essential to continue studying the long-term effects of internet usage on cognitive health, ensuring a balanced approach to digital engagement for optimal well-being in older adults.

Works Cited and Further Reading:

Cho, G., Betensky, R. A., & Chang, V. W. Internet usage and the prospective risk of dementia: A population-based cohort study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.