One Hour of Computer Use a Day Could Reduce the Risk of Depression and Dementia

student work office

As we highlighted in a previous article, screens are considered, in the collective imagination and in the statements of some misinformed researchers and clinicians, the scourge of the century. According to the latter, screens would make our children foolish or be implicated in the onset of autism spectrum disorder, to mention just these two fabrications. These categorical assertions are far from reality, as we previously explained. More broadly, the harmful effects of screens are also pointed out concerning their impact on mental health and the occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases.

To date, epidemiological studies suggest that screen time increases the risk of depression, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. Most authors agree on considering sedentary behavior as the mediating variable between screen time and the risk of these different pathologies. Nevertheless, studies generally lump all screen times together without taking the trouble to distinguish them. A recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, based on data from the UK Biobank cohort of British men and women aged 39 to 72, conducted this work and nuances the findings of previous studies.

Optimal Computer Use Falls Between 30 Minutes and One Hour per Day

In their epidemiological study, scientists discovered that moderate computer use decreases the risk of depression, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. Conversely, time spent in front of the television consistently increases the same risk. These findings remain valid after statistically accounting for the participants’ physical activity. The authors explain this by formulating several hypotheses:

  • The greater muscular activity and reduced passivity required for computer use
  • The likely higher energy expenditure during computer use makes engagement in enjoyable cognitive activities more frequent during computer use.
  • The necessarily more widespread social interactions during computer use.

Beyond a certain duration, the positive effects of computer activities gradually give way to negative impacts.

The Importance of the Quality of Daily Screen Time

The authors emphasize that physical activity remains by far the most effective defense against various studied pathologies. However, it is noteworthy that not all screen time is equal. While numerous screen activities may pose problems, there are also practices that contribute to individuals’ well-being: engaging in physical activity, socializing, solving problems through video games, staying connected with family and friends through social networks, staying informed about the world, and exercising critical thinking in the face of encountered information.

This seems to hold true for children as well, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry by French researchers. Evaluating the context of screen use is crucial to avoid labeling as detrimental those screen minutes that, in reality, serve us well and contribute positively to our overall well-being.