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Gerontology. 2012;58(5):385-90. doi: 10.1159/000338331. Epub 2012 May 10.

The epidemic of distraction.

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Division of Geriatric Medicin, Department of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, NY 10065, USA.


Multitasking is a rapidly growing phenomenon affecting all segments of the population but is rarely as successful as its proponents believe. The use of mobile electronic devices contributes importantly to multitasking and cognitive overload. Although personal electronic devices provide many benefits, their adverse effects are frequently overlooked. Personal observation and a review of the scientific literature supports the view that overuse or misuse of personal electronic devices promotes cognitive overload, impairs multitasking and lowers performance at all ages but particularly in the elderly. This phenomenon appears to be rapidly increasing and threatens to become a tsunami as spreading electronic waves cause an 'epidemic of distraction'. Mobile electronic devices often bring benefits to their users in terms of rapid access to information. However, there is a dark side to the increasing addiction to these devices that challenges the health and well-being of the entire population, targeting, in particular, the aged and infirm. New approaches to information gathering can foster creativity if cognitive overload is avoided.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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