Regular Internet Use Linked to Lower Dementia Risk in Older Adults, Study Says


Scientists at New York University have announced that regular use of the internet reduces the risk of dementia among older adults.

According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, more than 18,000 non-demented adults aged 50-64.5 participated in this study. During the study period, 4.68% of them were diagnosed with dementia.

Researchers found that regular internet use reduces the risk of dementia by 50% compared to infrequent (casual) use. This relationship holds true regardless of education level, race, gender, or age. Those who used the internet for at least 6-12 minutes per day were less susceptible to dementia.

According to them, "Online communication may help develop cognitive reserve, which in turn can compensate for brain aging and reduce the risk of dementia."

“Overall, this is important research. It identifies another potentially modifiable factor that might influence dementia risk,” said Dr. Claire Sexton, the Alzheimer’s Association’s senior director of scientific programs and outreach, who was not involved in the new study. “But we wouldn’t want to read too much into this study in isolation. It doesn’t establish cause and effect.”

Older adults’ use of social networking sites can also increase their connections to other people and reduce isolation. Some studies have shown that older people who were lonely were three times more likely to develop dementia than those who said they felt socially connected to others.

“We need further evidence, not just from observational studies like this one but also interventional studies,” Sexton said. That way, doctors might someday treat people for dementia like they do with heart disease: by suggesting lifestyle changes in addition to medication.

The researchers also point out that excessive internet use has negative side effects that they will try to identify in future studies.