A new study found a strong correlation between older adults’ regular internet use and a much lower incidence of dementia.
A “sweet spot” of up to two hours a day of internet use was also discovered by the study, beyond which the risk of dementia is expected to rise.
Experts advise providing assistance to elderly folks so they can use new web technology and remove access restrictions.
The impact of internet use among elderly people as a strategy for preventing dementia is the subject of a recent study.
According to the study, older adults who regularly use the internet have a roughly 50% lower risk of developing dementia than older adults who do not.
In this study, 18,154 persons without dementia were followed for an average of 7.9 years and up to 17.1 years to assess their cognitive health. The study’s participants ranged in age from 50 to 64.9 at the outset.
When compared to non-users, internet users who used it frequently had a 43% lower incidence of dementia. A dementia diagnosis had been made for 4.68% of the participants by the end of the trial.
With a U-shaped data curve, the study also hypothesized that the positive impacts of internet use varied with people’s levels of online activity.
The results indicate that the biggest reduction in dementia risk was seen in persons who used the internet between 0.1 and 2 hours per day.
Was that of any use?
A greater risk of dementia persisted for those who never used the internet or spent more than two hours online. The authors do warn that due to the small sample sizes, there were no discernible changes between user groups.
The study’s authors also investigated the effects of generational differences, educational level, race-ethnicity, sex, and gender on the relationship between internet use and dementia risk. They discovered that these factors had no effect on the risk of dementia.
Optimum level of internet usage
There was sort of a sweet spot where, if you used the internet for a half-hour to two hours a day, it was protective against dementia, according to Dr. Scott Kaiser, an expert in geriatric family medicine at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute who was not involved in this study.
He emphasized that “too much internet time was not protective, or potentially harmful.”
Dr. Kaiser is a co-founder of Determined Health, a group devoted to assisting seniors in fortifying their social ties.
Dr. Kaiser pointed out that older people who spend too much time online may be “highly exposed to negative images of aging, and feeling lower self-worth, and feeling bad about getting older that would be an example where too much time could potentially have a negative effect.” This is known as “doom-scrolling,” or compulsively scrolling through social media feeds laden with bad news.
A sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle may be encouraged by spending too much time online. The study’s conclusions could be impacted by the fact that it did not precisely record what its participants performed online.
Additionally not participating in the study, Dr. Snorri Bjorn Rafnsson of the University of West London in the United Kingdom told us that “these specific results merit further investigation.”
What could be the causes of some older individuals using the internet too much? Do they feel alone? isolated socially? What other dangers to their bodily or mental health could there be? What is happening among individuals who don’t use the internet at all, on the other hand? Dr. Snorri Bjorn Rafnsson stated, “I believe that these are questions that could be further investigated in studies in the future.”
How internet use may help ward against dementia?
“We know that learning new things and maintaining cognitive engagement is critical for protecting our brains and reducing our risk of developing dementia,” says Dr. Kaiser.
Because learning new information and using new technologies may excite the brain and improve people’s cognitive performance, we might say that using the internet in later life may have direct cognitive benefits.
Dr. Rafnsson pointed out that older persons could utilize the internet to look up general information or health-related information. Another factor encouraging elderly individuals to use the internet is the development of telemedicine.
Regular internet use may also result in positive interpersonal interactions. In a report titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” the U.S. Surgeon General discusses the significance of social connection.
How do seniors feel about getting older?
In general, engaging in online activities may encourage a positive outlook on aging, which can have favorable effects on one’s health. Dr. Becca Levy, the author of Breaking The Age Code, was mentioned by Dr. Kaiser.
It is “an amazing work of where we know that our perceptions of ageing actually impact how we age in terms of our longevity, our risk of dementia, just the very way that we think about ageing,” he said.
Dr. Kaiser proposed three mechanisms by which age stereotypes can influence the likelihood of dementia and ageing:
- It is well known that having a pessimistic mindset can be unhealthy.
- A recipe for poor health is to treat one’s body like an old vehicle that won’t be on the road for very long.
- Stress-related elevated cortisol levels and systemic inflammation.
Increasing accessibility to the internet
The suggestion made by Dr. Rafnsson is that “older adults should be supported to learn and use new online technology for whatever purpose they wish.”
He said, “There are many elderly persons who still encounter numerous obstacles, such as a lack of technical skills, cost, social support, etc.
Dr. Rafnsson added, “These hurdles may make it difficult for many older persons to gain from the cognitive and social advantages of utilizing the internet.”
Dr. Kaiser opined that “we should be working towards a more connected society for all.”
Risk factors for dementia
Scientists are still researching dementia, but they have identified some risk factors that can increase your likelihood of getting the disease. The following are some examples, according the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Advancing years. People 65 and older are most commonly affected by dementia.
- Family background. The likelihood of someone having dementia increases if they have parents or siblings who have the disease.
- Race/ethnicity. Dementia strikes older Black Americans twice as frequently as older White Americans. Dementia is 1.5 times more likely to affect Hispanic people than White people.
- Poor heart health. If diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are not effectively managed, they raise the chance of dementia.
- Brain damage caused by trauma. The risk increases with head injuries, particularly when they are serious or frequent.
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