According to some new research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, seniors who used the Internet often had a lower risk of dementia in their later years.
After monitoring 18,154 individuals with ages between 50 and 65 who were free of dementia when the study started for around 8 years, the researchers discovered this unexpected link.
The National Institute on Aging and Social Security Administration collected data from a sample of US citizens as part of the Health and Retirement Study.
All of the participants were asked the following: “Do you use the World Wide Web, or the Internet regularly for sending and receiving email or for any other purpose, such as purchases, searching for information, or travel reservations?”
At the beginning of the trial, those who regularly utilized the Internet had around a 50% lower risk of dementia when compared to those who did not.
The researchers also examined how frequently these people used the Internet, ranging from never to more than 8 hours every day.
When compared to people who did not use the Internet, who had a “significantly higher estimated risk,” those who used it for 2 hours or less per day had the lowest risk of being diagnosed with dementia.
On the other hand, the researchers also found that people who spent 6 to 8 hours per day online had an increased chance of developing dementia, but they added that this conclusion was not statistically significant and that further study was required.
Co-author Dr. Virginia W. Chang mentioned that “Online engagement may help develop and maintain cognitive reserve, which can then compensate for brain aging and reduce the risk of dementia.”
Additionally, the study didn’t look at what the participants were searching for online.
The Internet is full of things like kitten videos, but it can be cognitively engaging as well and some studies have suggested that intellectual stimulation can help stave off dementia.
A 2020 research, for instance, discovered a link between mentally challenging work and a decreased incidence of dementia.
It’s normal for brain processing rates to somewhat slow down with age.
Routine memory and knowledge, however, stay rather steady in a healthy brain.
Routine mental processes, such as creating new memories, solving issues, and finishing everyday chores, are difficult for people with dementia, however.
Around 6 million people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, the CDC states.
That total is only expected to grow exponentially as baby boomers age.
Dr. Claire Sexton, who was not directly involved in the research says that “Overall, this is really important research. It identifies another possibly modifiable factor that might influence dementia risk. But we would not want to read too much into this study in isolation. It does not establish cause and effect.”
The US Pointer Study, a clinical trial being conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association, aims to identify precisely which lifestyle changes can reduce a person’s risk of dementia.
Although there is no way to change risk factors like one’s age or their family history, some healthy behaviors may be able to lower the likelihood of this type of cognitive decline.
Exercise, sufficient sleep, eating healthily, controlling blood sugar, giving up smoking, and maintaining social engagements are all lifestyle choices that may be beneficial.
The latest study adds to the existing data that shows future research might better demonstrate this association, despite the fact that internet browsing is not one of the officially designated activities by the CDC.
The usage of the Internet may slow cognitive aging, according to previous research, which has been confirmed by the latest study.
One 2020 research showed that men internet users only saw a milder cognitive loss. There is no gender difference, according to others, however.
More precisely, according to the most recent study, there was no difference in risk between frequent internet users and non-users based on gender, education, ethnicity, or race.
Other studies have indicated the value of computer education for senior citizens and the potential benefits of the Internet in terms of social interaction and knowledge or skill acquisition.
According to research, the majority of older persons primarily use the Internet for routine chores like email, news, or online banking.
But an increasing number of people are learning how to use newer social media sites like BeReal or to dance and sing on TikTok.
Additionally, studies suggest that developing new skills may be a safeguard against dementia.
The usage of social networking sites by older individuals can help strengthen their relationships with others and lessen isolation.
According to some research, dementia is three times more likely to strike older persons who are lonely than those who report feeling socially attached to others.
Sexton stressed that “We need more evidence, not just from observational studies like this but also from interventional studies.”