A new study finds something really surprising about dementia, a condition predominantly in older people where brain functions deteriorate with age.
A groundbreaking new report published in JAMA Internal Medicine has come to the conclusion that rates of dementia are falling dramatically, and education may deserve the credit. The study examined snapshots of data from 2000 and in 2012, each looking at more than 10,000 Americans who were at least 65.
Scientists found that 11.6 percent of those surveyed had dementia in 2000, compared to just 8.8 percent in 2012, which amounts to more than a million people who don’t have dementia compared to 12 years earlier, according to the study.
The study notes that there has been an increase in the average amount of education, jumping from 11.8 years of education in 2000 to 12.7 years in 2012, indicating that today’s middle-aged and elderly tend to have high school education as well as a little bit of college on average, whereas in 2000 the average fell just sort of high school graduation.
Researchers aren’t quite sure why education would matter, but the theory is that education may actually change the brain, creating better connections between nerve cells. Better education can also improve the quality of a person’s life, which has an impact on the brain as well.
“The aging of the US population is expected to lead to a large increase in the number of adults with dementia, but some recent studies in the United States and other high-income countries suggest that the age-specific risk of dementia may have declined over the past 25 years,” the abstract states. “Clarifying current and future population trends in dementia prevalence and risk has important implications for patients, families, and government programs.”