Variations in cognitive abilities across the life course: Cross-sectional evidence from Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study

Whitley, E. , Deary, I. J., Ritchie, S. J., Batty, G. D., Kumari, M. and Benzeval, M. (2016) Variations in cognitive abilities across the life course: Cross-sectional evidence from Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study. Intelligence, 59, pp. 39-50. (doi:10.1016/j.intell.2016.07.001) (PMID:27932853) (PMCID:PMC5127898)

Whitley, E. , Deary, I. J., Ritchie, S. J., Batty, G. D., Kumari, M. and Benzeval, M. (2016) Variations in cognitive abilities across the life course: Cross-sectional evidence from Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study. Intelligence, 59, pp. 39-50. (doi:10.1016/j.intell.2016.07.001) (PMID:27932853) (PMCID:PMC5127898)

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Abstract

Background: Populations worldwide are aging. Cognitive decline is an important precursor of dementia, illness and death and, even within the normal range, is associated with poorer performance on everyday tasks. However, the impact of age on cognitive function does not always receive the attention it deserves. Methods: We have explored cross-sectional associations of age with five cognitive tests (word recall, verbal fluency, subtraction, number sequence, and numerical problem solving) in a large representative sample of over 40,000 men and women aged 16 to 100 living in the UK. Results: Women performed better on word recall tests and men had higher scores for subtraction, number sequence and numerical problem solving. However, age-cognition associations were generally similar in both genders. Mean word recall and number sequence scores decreased from early adulthood with steeper declines from the mid-60s onwards Verbal fluency, subtraction and numerical problem solving scores remained stable or increased from early to mid-adulthood, followed by approximately linear declines from around age 60. Performance on all tests was progressively lower in respondents with increasingly worse self-rated health and memory. Age-related declines in word recall, verbal fluency and number sequence started earlier in those with the worst self-rated health. There was no compelling evidence for age dedifferentiation (that the general factor of cognitive ability changes in strength with age). Conclusions: We have confirmed previously observed patterns of cognitive aging using a large representative population sample.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Batty, Dr G and Ritchie, Dr Stuart and Whitley, Dr Elise and Benzeval, Dr Michaela
Authors: Whitley, E., Deary, I. J., Ritchie, S. J., Batty, G. D., Kumari, M., and Benzeval, M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:Intelligence
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0160-2896
ISSN (Online):1873-7935
Published Online:15 September 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Intelligence 2016
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
656621Social Patterning of Health over the LifecourseTimothy PophamMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/7IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU