Education and how it transcends through a person's life could be an important factor.
The rate at which people are developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s is dropping leading experts to conclude the crisis may not be as bad as first thought.
The study conducted by Prof Kenneth Langa from the University of Michigan looked at the American population of over 65s, involving 21,000 people across all levels of education, health, income and race who participated in the Health and Retirement Study in 2000 and 2012.
From the results there was a clear indicator that the rate at which people were developing dementia had declined. According to the results, dementia fell from 11.6% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012 and it could be correlated with the amount of education a person receives.
“Education might actually change the brain itself,” Langa says. “We think that it actually creates more, and more complicated, connections between the nerve cells so that you’re able to keep thinking normally later into life.”
John Haaga, director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging who funded the study but didn’t have any involvement in collecting or analyzing the results, says education is something that can transcend through your whole life.
“It affects what kind of work you do, of course. It also affects who your friends are, who you’re married too, whether you’re married. All aspects of life are affected by educational attainment,” he says.
The study reflects similar results found from U.K. and European studies that both show a decline in the risk of developing dementia in older people.
As well as education, good physical health is thought to play a role in protecting the brain. Either way, this is good news for the ever-growing older population throughout the U.S.
“The fact that our study also shows a decline [in the prevalence of dementia], provides additional evidence that this phenomenon seems to be going on across the United States and not in one particular geographic region.”
Details of the study were published in the journal The JAMA Network.