Educated people cope better with dementia

Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:06am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Educated people are better able to cope with the physical effects of dementia, and even one extra year of education can significantly cut the risk of developing the brain-wasting disease, scientists said on Monday.

The findings by scientists from Britain and Finland could have important implications for public health at a time when populations in many countries are rapidly aging and dementia numbers are expected to rise sharply.

The researchers found that people who go on to university or college after leaving school appear to be less affected by the brain changes, or pathology, associated with dementia than those who stop education earlier.

"More education is not associated with any differences in the damage to the brain, but people with higher education can cope with that damage better," Hanna Keage from Cambridge University, who worked on the study with an Anglo-Finnish team, said in a telephone interview.

Over the past decade, studies on dementia have shown that the more time you spend in education, the lower your risk of dementia -- but until now scientists had not known whether this was because education somehow protected the brain against damage, or because it made people better able to cope.

In this study, published in the journal Brain, post-mortem examinations showed that the pathology, or changes, in the brain, were similar in those who were educated for longer and those who were not, but the disease's affects on more educated people was mitigated by their greater ability to cope.

PSYCHOLOGICAL STRENGTH

Keage said this may be due to psychological strength, which might allow those with more education to think around problems presented by their disease or find ways to overcome them.   Continued...