Can Using the Internet Reduce Your Risk of Dementia?

Demen­tia is a com­mon con­cern as peo­ple age. Read about how using the inter­net for a few hours a day may actu­al­ly low­er your risk of dementia.

The inter­net is a resource for all kinds of infor­ma­tion and activ­i­ties. It can help you keep in touch with friends, explore new recipes, and find that per­fect gift for some­one you love — all with a few clicks, key­strokes, or swipes. 

But the inter­net might be more than just con­ve­nient — it may also be good for your brain health. This is wel­come news to many, as cas­es of demen­tia (a reduced abil­i­ty to think, remem­ber, and make deci­sions that inter­feres with your dai­ly activ­i­ties) are on the rise. 

While demen­tia may be more of a con­cern as you age, pre­vent­ing demen­tia begins when you’re young. One of the ways you can keep your brain sharp is by doing what many are already doing — brows­ing the internet. 

Here’s how healthy inter­net usage may reduce your risk of demen­tia and what oth­er tac­tics you can take to keep your brain healthy. 

Inter­net Usage and Demen­tia: What’s the Connection? 

When you use the inter­net, you’re using your brain, too. Whether you’re mes­sag­ing a friend on social media or search­ing for a new restau­rant to try, you’re acti­vat­ing parts of your brain that you need to keep it work­ing as it should. 

A 2023 study revealed that reg­u­lar inter­net usage in adults between the ages of 50 and 65 can cut the risk of devel­op­ing demen­tia in half, com­pared to the risk of those who don’t use it regularly. 

In the study, about 18,000 par­tic­i­pants were asked if they reg­u­lar­ly used the inter­net for activ­i­ties like email­ing, shop­ping online, search­ing for infor­ma­tion, or mak­ing reser­va­tions for trav­el. They were also asked how much time they spent online, with options rang­ing from nev­er to over eight hours a day. 

Com­pared to those who didn’t reg­u­lar­ly use the inter­net, those who did (but spent less than two hours online each day) had the low­est risk of devel­op­ing dementia. 

This is like­ly because engag­ing online can help strength­en cog­ni­tive reserve, or your brain’s abil­i­ty to prob­lem solve and nav­i­gate chal­lenges. After all, keep­ing your brain active — whether through online use or oth­er means, like cross­word puz­zles — is a key pil­lar of long-term brain health. 

Do you have con­cerns about your brain health as you age? Make an appoint­ment with a Duly Neu­rol­o­gist to learn about reduc­ing your risk of dementia. 

This doesn’t mean you should start spend­ing your entire day online. To start, the study doesn’t estab­lish cause and effect. What’s more, there is such a thing as unhealthy inter­net usage, which might have an oppo­site, unhealthy effect on your brain. 

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Inter­net Usage 

Not all of the inter­net is cre­at­ed equal. Watch­ing end­less hours of fun­ny videos may have a dif­fer­ent impact than research­ing a DIY project or cor­re­spond­ing with loved ones. 

There are poten­tial neg­a­tive impacts of the inter­net, espe­cial­ly if not used thoughtfully. 

These include trou­ble sleep­ing, men­tal health con­cerns, and eye strain. 

To main­tain a healthy approach to inter­net usage: 

  • Lim­it how much time you spend on social media 
  • Spend at least a few hours each day with­out any screens, includ­ing TVs, com­put­ers, and phones 
  • Avoid screens an hour before sleep 
  • Give your eyes a break every twen­ty minutes

Rather than mind­less­ly scrolling through the inter­net, use it pur­pose­ful­ly. Good exam­ples of this would be iden­ti­fy­ing top­ics you want to research or new hob­bies you want to learn and using the resources on the inter­net to help you access that infor­ma­tion from the com­fort of your home. Con­sid­er how much you’re using the inter­net and for what pur­pos­es. If you feel like your screen time is impact­ing your sleep, keep­ing you from being social or pre­vent­ing you from get­ting exer­cise, it might be time to recon­sid­er your approach. 

Alter­na­tives to the Inter­net

Some peo­ple may not have devel­oped a habit of using the inter­net or may pre­fer to learn new infor­ma­tion in per­son or through touch, such as books or news­pa­pers. For those who are look­ing for the types of com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment or learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that the inter­net has to offer but do not pre­fer to use it, local libraries are a great resource. Pro­gram­ming will vary by branch, and to under­stand all your library has to offer, vis­it your library’s web­site or stop by and speak with your librarian. 

Tak­ing Steps Now to Reduce Your Risk of Demen­tia As You Age 

Low­er­ing your risk of demen­tia involves more than just using the inter­net. While reg­u­lar and pur­pose­ful inter­net usage may play a role, there are oth­er ways to flex your brain mus­cles, such as read­ing, engag­ing in a new hob­by, play­ing board games, and social­iz­ing with others. 

You can also keep your brain healthy by: 

The health­i­er you keep your body, the health­i­er your brain will be as you get old­er. By tak­ing mea­sures now to main­tain your body’s and brain’s health, you can do your best to pre­vent dementia.

Health Topics:

  • I find it very important to treat patients as people first by welcoming them to my practice and trying to help them remember that they are an individual who happens to have a neurologic problem - not just a patient with a disease. It is very important to address each patient's medical concerns, but I want to make sure that I understand how these concerns affect their lives so we can work together to manage each problem holistically.