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Participation in activities mediates the effect of Internet use on cognitive functioning in old age

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 November 2020

Stefan T. Kamin*
Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychogerontology, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), Nuremberg, Germany
Alexander Seifert
Institute for Integration and Participation, School of Social Work, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), Olten, Switzerland
Frieder R. Lang
Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychogerontology, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), Nuremberg, Germany
Correspondence should be addressed to: Stefan T. Kamin, Institute of Psychogerontology, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), Koberger Str. 62, Nuremberg 90408, Germany. Phone: +49 (0)911 5302 96104. Email:


Research indicates that Internet use positively influences cognitive functioning in later life, but we do not know the behavioral pathways that explain this association. This study explored the role of participation in activities as a potential mediator of the relationship between Internet use and cognitive functioning over a 4-year period. We analyzed representative data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The sample included 8353 European participants between 50 and 97 years of age. We used data from 2013 (T1), 2015 (T2), and 2017 (T3). Participants reported whether they participated in a diverse range of social and leisure activities. In addition, they provided information about their Internet use as well as cognitive functioning measures. Findings from cross-lagged panel analysis indicated a positive association between Internet use and change in cognition over the course of 4 years. This relationship was partly mediated by the number of reported activities. Internet use was positively associated with the change in activities after 2 years, which, in turn, positively predicted cognitive functioning 2 more years later. This is the first study that explores the temporal sequence of Internet use, participation in activities, and cognitive functioning. It sheds light on the mechanisms that account for the positive effects of Internet use on healthy aging.

Brief Report
© International Psychogeriatric Association 2020

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