Regular surfing the internet may benefit older people’s brain health, a study has found. Regular internet use by older people is associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia, according to a recent study.

The study also highlighted a ‘sweet spot’ for internet use for up to two hours a day, beyond which the risk of developing dementia is likely to increase. Experts say older people should be helped to use new online technologies and barriers to accessing them should be tackled. A new study examines the effect of internet use in older adults as a means of preventing dementia.

The study reveals that older people who regularly use the internet are almost half as likely to develop dementia as those who do not use the internet regularly.
For an average of 7.9 years, and up to 17.1 years, the study authors followed the cognitive health of 18,154 adults who did not have dementia. Study participants were between 50 and 64.9 years old at the start of the study. Regular internet users had a 43% reduced risk of developing dementia compared to non-users. At the end of the study, 4.68% of participants had been diagnosed with dementia.

The study also suggests that the beneficial effects of internet use depend on the degree of internet use, presenting a U-shaped curve of the data. The results suggest that people whose daily internet use was between 0.1 and 2 hours had the greatest reduction in dementia risk.

Was it helpful?

People who never went online or stayed online for more than two hours retained a higher risk of dementia. However, the authors point out that the small sample sizes did not allow us to observe significant differences between the groups of users. The study authors also investigated whether level of education, race and ethnicity, gender and generation impacted the association between internet use and dementia risk. . They found that the risk of dementia did not vary based on these factors. The study is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The most beneficial use of the internet

There’s kind of a sweet spot: if you used the internet for half an hour to two hours a day, it protected you against dementia. But too much time spent on the internet is not protective, on the contrary, it is rather potentially harmful.

With regard to excessive internet use, the researchers noted that if older people are “doom-scrolling,” that is, compulsively scrolling through social media feeds laden with bad news, they may be “highly exposed to negative images of aging, a feeling of worthlessness and a bad impression of aging (…), this would be an example where (too much time could potentially have a negative effect.

Too much time spent on the internet can also promote an unhealthy and more sedentary lifestyle. The study did not know exactly what the subjects were doing online, which could affect the study’s conclusions.

These particular results merit further investigation. What are the reasons why some seniors spend too much time online? Do they feel alone? Are they socially isolated? What are the other potential cognitive/physical risks? On the other hand, what happens to those who do not use the Internet at all? I think these are questions that could be explored further in future studies.

Why can Internet use help prevent dementia?

We already know that learning new things, staying cognitively engaged is key to protecting our brains and reducing the risk of dementia. Internet use in old age could have direct cognitive benefits because learning and using new technologies could stimulate the brain and therefore have a positive impact on cognitive functions. Older people can use the Internet to search for general information or information related to their health. The advent of telemedicine is another reason for seniors to spend time online.

Regular use of the internet can also allow for beneficial social interaction with other people.

How do older people perceive aging?

In general, participation in internet activities can promote a positive view of aging, which can have beneficial effects on health. Our perceptions of aging impact how we age in terms of longevity, dementia risk, simply how we think about aging.

Three pathways through which negative beliefs about age may affect the risk of dementia and aging:

Negative outlooks are known to be bad for your health
Treating your body like an old car that shouldn’t be running for very long is a recipe for poor health.
High levels of cortisol due to stress, as well as systemic inflammation.

Make the internet more accessible

The conclusions of the study favor that older people should be helped to learn and use new online technologies, whatever use they wish to make of them. Many seniors still face various barriers, such as lack of technical skills, cost, lack of social support, etc. These barriers can prevent many older people from reaping the cognitive and social benefits of internet use, which is truly unfortunate.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.