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Psychogeriatrics. 2015 Jun;15(2):154-162. doi: 10.1111/psyg.12083. Epub 2014 Dec 17.

Relationship between education and age-related cognitive decline: a review of recent research.

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School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Science, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.
Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK.


The association between level of educational attainment and cognitive performance is well studied. People with higher education perform better across a broad range of cognitive tasks. However, there is uncertainty as to whether education moderates the trajectory of age-related cognitive decline. This review paper addresses the potential link between education and age-related cognitive decline by evaluating relevant research published since 2000. Studies reporting data on education and its association with the rate of cognitive decline across various cognitive domains were reviewed. A total of 10 studies were identified with a mean follow-up period of 7.6 years; each contained a population-based, non-demented sample. In the majority of studies, results showed that education did not moderate age-associated cognitive decline. The few studies that did find an association between education and decline in specific cognitive functions should be interpreted with caution because of methodological issues. The literature reveals little consistent evidence that normal age-related cognitive decline is moderated by education attainment. This supports a passive theory of cognitive reserve: people with a higher level of education will continue to perform at a higher level of cognitive functioning than their lower educated peers, which may delay the onset of impairment in the future.


age-related cognitive decline; ageing; dementia; education; neuropsychological

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