A recent population-based cohort study sheds light on the relationship between internet usage and the risk of dementia among older adults. The research aimed to uncover whether various measures of internet usage had any long-term cognitive impact, and the findings provide valuable insights into the potential benefits and risks associated with regular internet usage in late adulthood.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society by Rebecca A. Betensky PhD, followed over 18,000 dementia-free adults aged 50 to 64.9 for an average of 7.9 years. The results revealed that regular internet usage was associated with a significant decrease in the risk of dementia compared to non-regular usage — in fact, regular users had approximately half the risk of developing dementia.
Furthermore, the study found that the duration of regular internet usage played a role in dementia risk; adults who maintained regular internet usage for longer periods in late adulthood experienced a reduced risk of cognitive impairment, which suggests that starting or continuing internet usage in old age can potentially delay the onset of dementia.
The analysis also explored the relationship between daily hours of internet usage and dementia risk. Interestingly, a U-shaped relationship emerged, indicating that the lowest risk of dementia was observed among individuals who used the internet for 0.1-2 hours daily.
Potential cognitive benefits if used in moderation
These findings highlight the potential cognitive benefits associated with regular internet usage among older adults. Engaging in online activities may provide mental stimulation and help maintain cognitive health, even so, the study also suggests the need for moderation in internet usage — excessive hours of daily usage showed a potential increase in dementia risk, although this finding requires further investigation.
As the use of technology continues to grow, it is essential to strike a balance between reaping the benefits of internet connectivity and maintaining a healthy cognitive state. Further research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of internet usage on brain health, as well as to identify potential risks associated with excessive use.
In other words, this study emphasizes the potential positive impact of regular internet usage in reducing the risk of dementia among older adults; by embracing technology and engaging in online activities, individuals can potentially promote their cognitive well-being and maintain a sharper mind as they age (as long as they do that with moderation).