New research published in the journal Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition suggests that early-life education may be a protective factor for older adults at risk of memory decline. Georgetown University Medical Center presented their findings online.
To obtain these results, researchers administered examinations to 704 late-adults between the ages of 58 and 98. The focus of the research team was on declarative memory, which involves the ability to recall words, facts, and events.
During the tests, participants were shown a series of drawings and asked to recall them several minutes later.
The researchers observed that memory loss worsened with age. In contrast, participants with higher early-life educational attainment were less likely to experience this decline in their study. In addition, female participants were less likely to exhibit poor memory performance than male participants.
According to the co-authors, memory gains associated with each year of educational attainment were twice as large as memory losses associated with each year of aging for male participants. In contrast, the gains for female participants were five times greater.
“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, in a news release. “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.