Washington: Older adults who use a computer may be up to 42 per cent less likely to develop memory and thinking problems, according to a new study which also found that engaging in reading, crafting and social activities may boost brain health in elderly.
"The results show the importance of keeping the mind active as we age," said study author Janina Krell-Roesch, with the Mayo Clinic in the US.
"While this study only shows association, not cause and effect, as people age, they may want to consider participating in activities like these because they may keep a mind healthier longer," said Krell-Roesch.
The researchers studied 1,929 people, age 70 and older, who were part of the larger Mayo Clinic Study of Ageing.
The participants had normal memory and thinking abilities at recruitment to the study. They were then followed for an average of four years until they developed mild cognitive impairment or remained impairment-free.
Participants were asked about their engagement in mentally stimulating activities such as computer use, reading, crafting and social activities within 12 months before participation in the study using a questionnaire.
The researchers then wanted to know if participants who engaged in mental activities at least once per week had a lower risk for new onset of mild cognitive impairment as compared to those participants who did not engage in these activities.
They found that people who used a computer once per week or more were 42 per cent less likely to develop memory and thinking problems than those who did not.
A total of 193 out of 1,077 people (17.9 per cent) in the computer use group developed mild cognitive impairment, compared to 263 out of 852 (30.9 per cent) people in the group that did not report computer use, researchers said.
People who engaged in social activities were 23 per cent less likely to develop memory problems than those who did not engage in social activities.
A total of 154 out of 767 (20.1 per cent) people in the social activities group developed problems, compared to 302 out of 1,162 (26.0 per cent) people who did not participate in social activities.
People who reported reading magazines were 30 per cent less likely to develop memory problems. Those who engaged in craft activities such as knitting were 16 per cent less likely to develop memory problems.
Similarly, those who played games were 14 per cent less likely to develop memory problems, researchers said.