Cognitive benefits of online social networking for healthy older adults

Janelle W. Myhre, Matthias R. Mehl, Elizabeth L. Glisky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Objectives: Research suggests that older adults who remain socially active and cognitively engaged have better cognitive function than those who are isolated and disengaged. This study examined the efficacy of learning and using an online social networking website,, as an intervention to maintain or enhance cognitive function in older adults. Method: Forty-one older adults were assigned to learn and use Facebook (n = 14) or an online diary website (active control, n = 13) for 8 weeks or placed on a waitlist (n = 14). Outcome measures included neuropsychological tests of executive functions, memory, and processing speed and self-report questionnaires about social engagement. Results: The Facebook group showed a significant increase in a composite measure of updating, an executive function factor associated with complex working memory tasks, compared to no significant change in the control groups. Other measures of cognitive function and social support showed no differential improvement in the Facebook group. Discussion: Learning and using an online social networking site may provide specific benefits for complex working memory in a group of healthy older adults. This may reflect the particular cognitive demands associated with online social networking and/or the benefits of social engagement more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)752-760
Number of pages9
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Executive function
  • Social interaction
  • Social media
  • Technology
  • Training
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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