The Internet, consumed in moderation, can contribute to better overall brain health for older Americans.
People who regularly interact with the Internet are less likely to develop dementia, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The researchers looked at 18,154 adults ages 50 to 65 over an eight-year period.
The participants did not have dementia at the start of the study.
The study looked at how much time older adults spent on the Internet on a scale of never to more than eight hours per day.
The researchers found that those who used the Internet at the start of the study already had half the risk of developing dementia as people who did not regularly surf the Internet.
Participants were asked: “Do you regularly use the World Wide Web or the Internet to send and receive email or for any other purpose, such as shopping, searching for information, or making travel reservations?”
The findings suggest that those with the lowest risk of dementia were online two hours or less a day, compared with those who did not use the Internet at all.
But too much of anything is never a good thing. In fact, the researchers found that older people who spent six to eight hours online per day had a higher risk of dementia, though they noted that more research is needed.
“Being a regular user of the Internet for longer periods in late adulthood was associated with delayed cognitive decline, although more evidence is needed on the potential adverse effects of excessive use,” the authors wrote in the study.
“While most studies among older adults show that Internet use is associated with better cognitive health, the impact of excessive use on dementia risk remains unclear.”
Exercising memory muscles online has been shown to help strengthen memory in older adults.
Separate 2021 research published in the Journals of Gerontology by UK researchers found that older people who communicated frequently online, along with social interactions in person or on the phone, were less likely to experience memory loss or the ability to to remember events, a sign of dementia.
Nearly 10% of American adults age 65 and older have dementia, while another 22% have mild cognitive impairment, according to Columbia University.