Internet good for health?

Internet use is often linked with negative health findings, particularly depression. So I was interested to read about some positive links. A new study has shown that older men and women who use the internet are more likely to behave in ways linked to reduced risk of cancer. This was a large, population-based, cohort study of older adults in England (the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing), which collected data from men and women aged 50 or older.

Consistent internet users were found to be twice as likely as non-users to participate in colorectal screening. They were also 50 per cent more likely to take part in regular physical activity, 24 per cent more likely to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, and 44 per cent less likely to be current smokers. There was, however, no association between internet use and participation in breast cancer screening among women.

Although these findings might be thought to be due to older internet users being better educated and wealthier than non-internet users, the researchers allowed for sociodemographic factors that influence internet use and various measures of physical capabilities and cognitive function that decline with age, and still found an association between internet use and cancer-preventive behaviours.

There was also a dose-response relationship between internet use and cancer preventive-behaviours in that intermittent users were more likely to have cancer-preventive behaviours than those who never used the internet, while consistent users were more likely to have cancer-preventive behaviours than intermittent users.

Interestingly, a US study published last year found that people who use the internet to inquire about their health are more likely to have a positive outlook on cancer prevention and diagnosis. Perhaps the internet is good for us after all!

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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