Contrary to popular belief, smartphones and other mobile technology may have the potential to improve brain functions. A new study published in the journal Intelligence found that the use of computers and mobile phones could partly explain why today’s Baby Boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—appear to be four to eight years younger, cognitively, than a similar population less than a decade ago. This phenomenon was observed across all genders, health factors and levels of education.
“We know that IQ has been increasing for many decades,” Valeria Bordone, of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, told Quartz. Bordone and her colleagues used data collected from those over the age of 50. Approximately 2,000 people were tested in 2006, and another 3,000 were tested in 2012.
Of course, smartphones aren’t solely responsible for this positive shift. During this period, people around the world have obtained more widespread access to better education, nutrition and healthcare. While these small improvements themselves are helping people live longer, more vibrant lives, they’ve also allowed people to gain more access to mentally stimulating activities that improve their cognitive abilities.
Baby Boomers may also have their children and, especially, their grandchildren to thank. Another explanation for Bordone’s results is that having a more educated younger population requires the older population to develop new cognitive skills later in life just to keep up. This can also have added benefits in the workplace. Many Baby Boomers are still very much in the workforce, and they usually have roles in which they manage Millennials. Being skilled at working with smartphones and other mobile devices, especially in relation to the workplace, can not only improve your mental agility but also improve communication with people across generations.