A European-wide study in the journal Neuroepidemiology has found that whilst older people with a higher level of education have better memory function, it does not protect them from declines in memory and thinking as they age.
In one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on education and cognitive decline to date (published Tuesday 21 February 2017), researchers at University College London (UCL) and funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Alzheimer’s Society, explored changes in memory and cognitive performance over an eight-year period in over 11,000 Europeans aged 65 and over from 10 different countries.
The participants were tested at first entry into the study and then again at two-year intervals. Participants were asked to recall a 10-word list to test their immediate recall, and then again after five minutes to test their delayed recall.
Dr James Pickett, Head of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
“This large study looked at whether levels of education impact on the natural decline in memory and thinking that occurs as we get older. It found that, although older people who are more educated perform better on memory tests, there was no differences in the rate of memory decline they experienced as they aged compared to their less educated peers.
“Previous studies have found that more years spent in education are linked to a lower rate of dementia. Today’s findings reinforce that dementia is not a natural part of ageing and that the factors that may delay the onset of dementia might not have the same effect on the forgetfulness that is all too common as we grow older.
“As we continue to live longer, it’s important to find ways to help us preserve our memory and thinking skills as well as to develop ways to reduce our risk of dementia – such as eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly.”