If your memory is fading at 70, blame your eight-year-old self

World

If your memory is fading at 70, blame your eight-year-old self

Early cognitive skills, education and socioeconomic status all influence mental decline in old age, a study shows

Sarah Knapton

Memory loss and mental decline in old age are largely decided by the age of eight, a new study has shown.

Scientists at University College London tested the memory and thinking skills of Britons in their late 60s and 70s and compared the results to similar tests that they took as schoolchildren. They found that someone whose cognitive performance was in the top 25% as a child was likely to remain in the top 25% at the age of 70. Spending longer in education also seemed to be protective, with participants who completed a university degree scoring about 16% higher than participants who left school before the age of 16.

There was a strong link between those who performed well at the age of eight and those who went on to further education. Having a professional rather than a manual job was also related to a slight improvement in thinking and memory performance in older people. Those who had worked in professional jobs tended to recall an average of 12 details from a short story, compared with 11 for those who had worked in manual jobs...

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