New study suggests regular internet usage can lower the risk of dementia

A new study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society claims that older adults who “regularly” use the internet show a lower risk of developing dementia.

The study has been widely reported; you can get details here, here and here.

The study, conducted by researchers at New York University, followed 18,154 adults aged 50-64, who did not have dementia. They were tracked for about eight years. Each participant was asked a question at the beginning of the study, and then every second year, as to whether or not they regularly used the internet for sending or receiving emails or for other purposes like information or making purchases.

Researchers recorded how many hours a day the participants spent online, from zero to eight hours.

Results: those who used the internet regularly “were associated with approximately half the risk of dementia compared to non-regular usage.”

The results applied regardless of other factor like education, race, ethnicity, gender and generation.

The money quote, from study co-author Dr. Virginia W. Chang:

“Online engagement may help to develop an maintain cognitive reserve, which can in turn compensate for brain aging and reduce the risk of dementia.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean the more hours, the better. Researchers found that two hours or so seemed to be the “sweet spot,” and that those who were online for six to eight hours a day actually had a higher risk of dementia. However they cautioned that the sample size was too small for that finding to be statistically significant, and that more research is needed.


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