Low education makes the brain age faster

Growing old isn’t fun. Our joints and muscles get weaker and our brain and mental capacities get slower. But this happens faster for some than for others. That’s the conclusion of a new Danish study that found that people with little lose mental and cognitive abilities much faster than those who do more years at school.
When the scientists looked at the participants’ educational backgrounds and lines of work and compared them with how their cognitive performances deteriorated over the years they found a considerable difference. “It seems that challenging the intellect daily counters the wear and tear of the brain brought on by ageing,” says Eigil Rostrup, consultant doctor at Glostrup Hospital and senior researcher behind the study which was recently published in the journal Human Brain Mapping.
Previous studies have shown that people with low incomes and limited education have a tendency to lead less healthy lifestyles than others and exercise less. This kind of lifestyle leads to a higher risk of dementia and ageing of the brain, and could perhaps explain the results.
“We expected to see a majority of smokers and overweight people in the group of participants whose mental capacities had deteriorated the most, as the unhealthy lifestyle is hard on the body. But surprisingly that wasn’t the case,” says Rostrup. “The obvious interpretation is that people with limited education and a job that’s less mentally demanding age faster, because they don’t exercise their cognitive functions on a daily basis to the same extent,” he says.