Dementia affects about 24 million people in the world and is one of the world's fastest growing diseases. New research suggests that a personal computer can lower the risk of dementia by up to 40 percent in men.

Dementia isn't a specific disease but is a term that describes loss of brain function that can occur due to many reasons. Dementia generally occurs after 60 years of age and is characterized by loss of memory, language, thinking and behavioral changes.

"As the world's population ages, the number of people experiencing cognitive decline and dementia will increase to 50 million by 2025. But if our findings are correct, the increase in the number of cases of dementia over the next 40 years may not be as dramatic as is currently expected," said Winthrop Professor Osvaldo Almeida Research Director at the University of Western Australia-affiliate, the Centre for Health and Ageing.

Professor Almeida said previous studies have showed that cognitively-stimulating activities decreased the risk of dementia but not many studies have explored the relationship of use of computers and dementia risk, a press release from UWA said.

"So it got us thinking, with personal computer ownership on the increase, could it make a difference? We found that it did, and that there was a significant benefit," he said. The present study involved 5,000 men, between the ages of 65 and 85, from Perth, Australia. The study lasted for 8 years. 

Researchers found that computer users were more likely to be high school graduates, younger, with a more active social life and had lower levels of depression. According to researchers, computer users had a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of developing dementia than people who didn't use computers. Researchers attribute this occurrence to lower education, high social isolation and cognitive disability in men who can't use computers.

According to researchers, senior citizens must be encouraged to use computers but they should also be informed about the disadvantages of staying on a computer for a long time. Taking part in everyday activities too can act as a buffer in cognitive decline. Previous studies have shown that people with high intellectual ability remain mentally healthy until very old age.

The present study was published in the journal PLoS ONE