Educational attainment associated with improved memory in late-adulthood

A new study in Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition implies that early-life education may be a protective factor for people in late-adulthood at risk of memory decline. The findings were presented online by Georgetown University Medical Center.

To acquire those findings, researchers conducted tests on 704 participants in late-adulthood, between the ages of 58 and 98. The research team focused on declarative memory, which involves the ability to recall minor details, like words, facts, and events.

During the tests, a series of drawings were shown to the participants to recall what they’ve seen several minutes later.

What researchers noticed was that memory decline worsened with aging. But in their study, the participants with higher early-life educational attainment were less likely to exhibit such decline. Moreover, female participants were less likely than men to encounter poor memory performance.

For the male participants, memory gains tied to each year of educational attainment was two times bigger than the losses encountered during each year of aging, according to the co-authors. For female participants, on the other hand, the gains were five times bigger.

“Evidence suggests that girls often have better declarative memory than boys, so education may lead to greater knowledge gains in girls,” said Michael Ullman, co-author of the study.

“Education may thus particularly benefit memory abilities in women, even years later in old age.”

“These findings may be important, especially considering the rapidly aging population globally. The results argue for further efforts to increase access to education,” Jana Reifegerste, the study’s lead author, concluded.

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