Is ‘digital dementia’ real?

Dementia affects the ability of a person to think and reason properly. Excess use of technology has increased the chance of developing digital dementia.
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Can technology overuse lead to digital dementia? Image courtesy: Freepik
Purvi Kalra Published: 25 Mar 2024, 10:34 pm IST
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Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to a decline in the ability to think. It also affects memory, reasoning and language due to chemical changes happening in the brain. Dementia can severely impact the quality of life of a person by affecting the functioning of the brain. In the digital age, the term ‘digital dementia’ has emerged. German neuroscientist and psychiatrist Manfred Spitzer coined the term in 2012 to describe changes in cognitive abilities as a side effect of technology overuse. While digital dementia isn’t a medical condition, what it implies is that excessive use of technology can lead to dementia-like symptoms. 

Is digital dementia real?

Digital dementia is characterised as the disintegration of brain functioning as a result of the abuse of technological innovations, such as computers, smartphones and the internet, says psychiatrist, therapist and counsellor Dr Harshil Shah. With the advent of computers, young individuals are becoming less dependent on their brains. Nowadays, computers can do most of the thinking for them, which is clearing out numerous young brains.

A study published in BMC Public Health Journal in 2023 analysed the relationship between screen-based sedentary activities and the risk of dementia in 462,524 participants. Researchers found that more than 4 hours of screen time per day was linked with a higher risk of vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and all-cause dementia in participants. Increased daily screen time was also associated with physical changes in certain areas of the brain.

Digital dementia
Being dependent on devices may lead to digital dementia. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the symptoms of digital dementia?

This condition cannot exactly be diagnosed. However, as the name implies, digital dementia may share some symptoms similar to those of dementia, such as:

  •  Having issues with short-term memory
  • Easily forgetting or losing things
  • Finding it difficult to recall words
  • Having a hard time multi-tasking

Excess screen time can also result in sleep or frequent mood changes, which can further significantly affect brain function.

digital dementia
Reduce your screen time in order to prevent the risk of getting digital dementia. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

How to prevent digital dementia?

Technology has been a boon in today’s times. However, one can’t rule out the downsides of excess technology usage. Digital dementia is one of them. Here are some ways you can prevent the risk of getting digital dementia.

1. Reduce screen time

Phones often come with applications for screen lock and limiting the screen time beyond a point, which can come in handy. The proposed screen time for children of all ages ought to be constrained to 1 to 2 hours a day. Homes ought to have “screen-free zones”, particularly in rooms, says the expert.

Also read: Dementia is not a normal sign of aging. Here’s why early detection is important

2. Exercise

Exercise can have a huge impact on, both physical and mental health, exercise boosts the happy hormones like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Once a notification pops up on your phone or when you play games, these same hormones get released in your body. So, a healthier way to get that kick is by reducing phone usage and rather indulging in some physical exercise to get that happy boost.

3. Read books

We tend to read e-books and PDFs rather than a hardbound one, which may lead to digital dementia. Reading a hardbound book would give you the much-needed break from constant digital exposure, leading to better concentration and quality of reading”.

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4. Socialise

Socialising and interacting with friends and family members pushes the idea of living in the present moment instead of staying glued to your phones. It can be a great way of digital detox as it strengthens real relationships and bonding. Also, socialising and having a group of friends to hang out with is one of the major reasons for happiness.

5. Use your brain more

If we want to prevent digital dementia, we need to shift away from our natural reflex of reaching out to use our phones to look up information and make the switch back to using our brains, says the expert.

6. Timeouts

If your work necessitates you to use your phone or it requires you in front of a screen the whole day, try to take breaks and relax with activities like deep breathing, meditation and jogging. This would re-energise you and help you cope with further work burden healthily, a suggestion from the expert.

7. Mindfulness

Being completely aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, leading to a feeling of calm is mindfulness. Distracting oneself from digital media and being “mindful” in some other meaningful and pleasurable activity is a great mode of digital detox and can help significantly.

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About the Author

After testing her skill-set in the field of management and marketing, Purvi Kalra is exploring the world of turning thoughts to words. Her penchant for writing stems for being an avid reader all her life. Her work drives her to be better every day. ...Read More

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