Education one of the best ways to protect against cognitive decline: Study
A handful of factors, such as education, income and job type, may increase the likelihood that people in their mid-50s will still be mentally sharp, a new study finds.
An analysis of data from more than 7,000 U.S. adults showed that these factors could explain nearly 40% of the differences in the amount of cognitive ability people had lost by age 54. E
ducation, in particular whether a person had finished college, made the biggest difference in cognitive abilities such as memory, judgment and focus, Ohio State University scientists reported Wednesday in a scientific journal.
The researchers analyzed data from the University of Michigan’s health and retirement study, which has been tracking more than 20,000 participants for more than 20 years. T
he study's database includes information on participants’ income, occupation and education, along with personal information such as marital history, religion, depression and cognitive abilities, as well as body mass index, activity levels, smoking history and other physical health details.
The data the researchers included in their analyses came from a single set of 7,068 adults who were 54 to 65 years old in 1996 and then 20 years later.
Study co-author Hui Zheng, a professor of sociology, suspects that the reason people with a college degree do better cognitively in their 50s is they are more likely to end up with a career that makes them use their brains.
“If you have a job that is mentally stimulating, you’re lucky, because you’re using your brain all the time,” he said. “The more mental challenges in your job, the better.”