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Epidemiological study (observational study)

Long-term digital mobile phone use and cognitive decline in the elderly.

Published in: Bioelectromagnetics 2012; 33 (2): 176-185

Aim of study (acc. to author)

The long-term effects of exposure to digital mobile phones on cognitive performance in older persons was investigated in a cohort in Singapore.

Further details

Cognitive function was assessed at baseline and at follow-up by Mini-Mental State Examination. Total scores range from 0 to 30, with higher scores denoting better cognitive performance. A clinically significant level of cognitive decline was determined by a drop of two or more points between baseline and follow-up. Further neuropsychological tests were used to assess attention and working memory (Digit Span test, Spatial Span test), memory function (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning test, Visual Reproduction test), and executive functioning (Categorical Verbal Fluency test, Design Fluency test).

Endpoint/type of risk estimation



Exposure groups

Reference group 1 mobile phone use: never or rarely (< 1 call/week)
Group 2 mobile phone use: sometimes (≥ 1 call/week, but not daily)
Group 3 mobile phone use: often (daily)


  • Group:
    • men
    • women
  • Age: ≥ 55 years
  • Characteristics: non-dement Chinese participants of the Singapore Longitudinal Ageing Studies (SLAS) cohort
  • Observation period: 2004 - 2005, follow-up 2008 - 2009
  • Study location: Singapore
  • Data source: Singapore Longitudinal Ageing Studies cohort
  • Exclusion criteria: Mini-Mental State Examination score less than 24

Study size

Participants 871
Statistical analysis method:
  • logistic regression
( adjustment: )

Conclusion (acc. to author)

43.6 % of the participants reported no or rare use of digital mobile phones, 25.5 % used sometimes their mobile phones, and 30.9 % reported daily ("often") mobile phone use. In this study, digital mobile phone users were significantly more likely to be younger, male, better educated, and more active in physical, social and productive activities, characteristics which are associated with better cognitive functioning.
There was clearly no evidence of a deleterious effect of digital mobile phone use on cognitive functioning in older people after adjusting for confounders. Findings suggest that digital mobile phone use may have a possible favorable effect on global cognitive performance and executive functioning (e.g., planning, organization).

Study funded by

  • Biomedical Research Council Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore

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