The normal decline in memory and intellect that comes with aging may occur earlier—and faster—in men than women, says a study in Psychology and Aging.
Older women outscored older men on most tests of cognitive function administered over nearly a decade, the study found. Men also showed a faster decline in specific cognitive abilities, such as mental agility, whereas there was no measure in which women had a steeper decline compared with men.
Men and women were free of cognitive impairment at all times in the analysis, according to the study.
Profound changes in society that have increased women’s exposure to cognitive stimulation, health improvements and economic prosperity may have resulted in greater resilience to age-related cognitive change, researchers said. Previous studies have suggested that age-related brain changes also occur at a slower rate in older women, they said.
The study, at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, analyzed data collected at various times between 1979 and 2013 on more than 2,000 participants in a larger study of aging. The subjects ranged from 50 to 96 years old at the start, and 53% were men. Over about nine years, the subjects participated in approximately four cognitive assessments that measured such functions as memory, attention, mental flexibility and verbal abilities.