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Maintaining cognitive function with internet use: a two-country, six-year longitudinal study

  • Jessica Berner (a1) (a2), Hannie Comijs (a2) (a3), Sölve Elmståhl (a4), Anna-Karin Welmer (a5), Johan Sanmartin Berglund (a6), Peter Anderberg (a6) and Dorly Deeg (a1) (a2)...



Maintaining good cognitive function with aging may be aided by technology such as computers, tablets, and their applications. Little research so far has investigated whether internet use helps to maintain cognitive function over time.


Two population-based studies with a longitudinal design from 2001/2003 (T1) to 2007/2010 (T2).


Sweden and the Netherlands.


Older adults aged 66 years and above from the Swedish National Study on Ageing and Care (N = 2,564) and from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (N = 683).


Internet use was self-reported. Using the scores from the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) from T1 and T2, both a difference score and a significant change index was calculated. Linear and logistic regression analysis were performed with difference score and significant change index, respectively, as the dependent variable and internet use as the independent variable, and adjusted for sex, education, age, living situation, and functional limitations. Using a meta-analytic approach, summary coefficients were calculated across both studies.


Internet use at baseline was 26.4% in Sweden and 13.3% in the Netherlands. Significant cognitive decline over six years amounted to 9.2% in Sweden and 17.0% in the Netherlands. Considering the difference score, the summary linear regression coefficient for internet use was −0.32 (95% CI: −0.62, −0.02). Considering the significant change index, the summary odds ratio for internet use was 0.54 (95% CI: 0.37, 0.78).


The results suggest that internet use might play a role in maintaining cognitive functioning. Further research into the specific activities that older adults are doing on the internet may shine light on this issue.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Prof. dr. D.J.H. Deeg, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, P.O. Box 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Telephone: +31 20 444 6767. Email:


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