70-year-olds smarter than they used to be

October 22, 2010

Today´s 70-year-olds do far better in intelligence tests than their predecessors. It has also become more difficult to detect dementia in its early stages, though forgetfulness is still an early symptom, reveals new research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, based on the H70 study.

The H70 study provides data on cognitive symptoms that researchers have used to predict the development of dementia, and also to investigate whether the symptoms have changed in recent generations. The study involves a large proportion of 70-year-olds from Gothenburg, Sweden, who have been extensively examined over the years, including tests that measure memory, speed, language, logic and spatial awareness. New results from the study were published earlier this year in the reputable American journal Neurology.

"Using the test results, we've tried to identify people who are at risk of developing dementia," says Simona Sacuiu, resident in psychiatry at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and medical researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy's Unit of Neuropsychiatric Epidemiology. "While this worked well for the group of 70-year-olds born in 1901-02, the same tests didn't offer any clues about who will develop dementia in the later generation of 70-year-olds born in 1930."

The 70-year-olds born in 1930 and examined in 2000 performed better in the intelligence tests than their predecessors born in 1901-02 and examined in 1971. There were no differences in test results between 70-year-olds who developed dementia and those who did not over the next five years in the group born in 1930 and examined in 2000, while many of the tests identified early signs of dementia in the group born in 1901-02.

"The improvement can partly be explained by better pre- and neonatal care, better nutrition, higher quality of education, better treatment of high blood pressure and other vascular diseases, and not least the higher intellectual requirements of today's society, where access to advanced technology, television and the Internet has become part of everyday life," says Dr. Sacuiu.

The study showed that memory problems were the only predictor of which 70-year-olds were at risk of developing dementia. However, far from all of the 70-year-olds with a poor memory went on to develop the illness.

"That's why it's important for people with memory problems to receive a thorough examination," explains Dr. Sacuiu. "If we are to identify dementia effectively at an early stage, we need good tools that include psychometric tests. However, these must constantly be adapted to new generations, as older people are performing better and better in standardised psychometric tests."

At the same time, the incidence of dementia remained unchanged - it is just as common between the age of 70 and 75 today as it was 30 years ago. The study included over 800 dementia-free 70-year-olds, 5% of whom went on to develop the illness over the subsequent five years.

"Learning more about the early signs of dementia means that patients may get help and support more quickly," says Dr. Sacuiu.

THE H70 STUDY

The study started in 1971 with an examination of 70-year-olds who were then regularly followed over a period of 30 years. A new H70 study started in the year 2000, and is still ongoing. Data from a total of more than 2,000 senior Gothenburg residents are included in these studies. The participants have been examined both physically and psychiatrically and have enabled several research groups to describe different trends in physical and mental health in the aging population.
-end-


University of Gothenburg

Related Dementia Articles from Brightsurf:

The danger of Z-drugs for dementia patients
Strong sleeping pills known as 'Z-drugs' are linked with an increased risk of falls, fractures and stroke among people with dementia, according to new research.

The long road to dementia
Alzheimer's disease develops over decades. It begins with a fatal chain reaction in which masses of misfolded beta-amyloid proteins are produced that in the end literally flood the brain.

Why people with dementia go missing
People with dementia are more likely to go missing in areas where road networks are dense, complicated and disordered - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

PTSD may double risk of dementia
People who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are up to twice as likely to develop dementia later in life, according to a new study by UCL researchers, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Dementia education
School-based dementia education could deliver much needed empathy and understanding for older generations as new research from the University of South Australia shows it can significantly improve dementia knowledge and awareness among younger generations.

Building dementia friendly churches
A project to help church communities become more 'dementia friendly' has had a significant impact across the country.

A "feeling" for dementia?
A research team led by the DZNE concludes that personal perception can be an important indicator for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease.

New biomarker for dementia diagnosis
Medical researchers in the UK and Australia have identified a new marker which could support the search for novel preventative and therapeutic treatments for dementia.

Digital solutions for dementia care
Telehealth delivery of dementia care in the home can be as effective as face-to-face home visit services if carers and recipients take advantage of the technologies available, Australian researchers say.

Despite a marked reduction in the prevalence of dementia, the number of people with dementia is set to double by 2050 according to new Alzheimer Europe report
Today, at a European Parliament lunch debate, Alzheimer Europe launched a new report presenting the findings of its collaborative analysis of recent prevalence studies and setting out updated prevalence rates for dementia in Europe.

Read More: Dementia News and Dementia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.