Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Older people getting smarter, but not fitter

01.09.2015

Older populations are scoring better on cognitive tests than people of the same age did in the past —a trend that could be linked to higher education rates and increased use of technology in our daily lives, say IIASA population researchers.

People over age 50 are scoring increasingly better on tests of cognitive function, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. At the same time, however, the study showed that average physical health of the older population has declined.

The study relied on representative survey data from Germany which measured cognitive processing speed, physical fitness, and mental health in 2006 and again in 2012. It found that cognitive test scores increased significantly within the 6-year period (for men and women and at all ages from 50 to 90 years), while physical functioning and mental health declined, especially for low-educated men aged 50-64. The survey data was representative of the non-institutionalized German population, mentally and physically able to participate in the tests.

In recent years, population experts at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have been exploring new ways to measure age that focus on people’s characteristics rather than the number of years they have lived. Cognition normally begins to decline with age, and is one key characteristic that demographers use to understand how different population groups age more successfully than others.

Previous studies have found elderly people to be in increasingly good health—“younger” in many ways than previous generations at the same chronological age—with physical and cognitive measures all showing improvement over time. The new study is the first to show divergent trends over time between cognitive and physical function.

“We think that these divergent results can be explained by changing lifestyles,” says IIASA World Population Program researcher Nadia Steiber, author of the PLOS ONE study. “Life has become cognitively more demanding, with increasing use of communication and information technology also by older people, and people working longer in intellectually demanding jobs. At the same time, we are seeing a decline in physical activity and rising levels of obesity.”

A second study from IIASA population researchers, published last week in the journal Intelligence found similar results suggesting that older people have become smarter also in England.

“On average, test scores of people aged 50+ today correspond to test scores from people 4-8 years younger and tested 6 years earlier,” says Valeria Bordone, a researcher at IIASA and the affiliated Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital.

The studies both provide confirmation of the “Flynn effect” — a trend in rising performance in standard IQ tests from generation to generation. The studies show that changes in education levels in the population can explain part, but not all of the effect.

Bordone says, “We show for the first time that although compositional changes of the older population in terms of education partly explain the Flynn effect, the increasing use of modern technology such as computers and mobile phones in the first decade of the 2000s also contributes considerably to its explanation.”

The researchers note that the findings apply to Germany and England, and future research may provide evidence on other countries.

Funding:
This study was supported by the European Research Council-funded project Reassessing Aging from a Population Perspective (Re-Aging). Grant number ERC2013-AdG 323947-Re-Ageing. The funder was not involved in the research. http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/research/researchPrograms/WorldPopulation/Reagin...

MSc Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>