Cognitive skills fall from age 45

Cognitive skills fall from age 45

By Liz Lockhart

It was considered to be the case that cognitive skills start to decline from around the age of 60 but new research suggests that this is not the case and that the decline starts much earlier.

The research, published last week in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), was conducted by researchers led by Archana Singh-Manoux from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in France and University College London.

The researchers observed 5,198 men and 2,192 women over a 10 year period from 1997.  The volunteer participants were London based civil servants who enrolled in this long-term study and were aged between 45 and 70.

The participants were tested three times during the 10 year period.  The test areas included memory, vocabulary and skills in aural and visual comprehension.

The results of these tests showed that during the 10 years there was a 3.6% decline in mental reasoning in men aged between 45 and 49 and a 9.6% decline in those aged between 65 and 70.  For women the figures were slightly lower with 3.6% showing a decline in the age 45-49 group and a 7.4% decline for those women aged 65-70.

The paper says ‘cognitive decline is already evident in middle age’.  Middle age is defined in this research as 45-49.  The author hopes that these findings will spur further research into spotting and braking cognitive deterioration.

The paper also notes that many societies face an ‘exponential increase’ in the number of elderly people as a result of the increase in life expectancy.

The research suggests that ‘these changes are likely to have a profound influence on individuals’ lives and society at large.  Poor cognitive status is perhaps the single most disabling condition in old age.’ 

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