Seniors Today Smarter Than Six Years Ago—But in Poorer Health: Study

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Marji_020915According to two new studies published in the journals PLOS ONE and Intelligence, seniors today appear to be smarter than seniors from previous years, primarily due to higher education rates and increased use of technology.

In the first study—published in PLOS ONE—researchers analyzed data from men and women aged 50 to 90 who lived in Germany in 2006 and 2012. Data included test results of physical fitness levels, mental health, and cognitive processing speed.

Researchers discovered that the seniors between the ages of 50 and 90 performed better on cognitive tests in 2012 than in 2006. Mental health and physical functioning declined, specifically in men aged 50 to 64 who had little education.

The second study, published in Intelligence, revealed that a similar improvement in cognitive function can be seen in seniors from England. More specifically, the average test scores for seniors over the age of 50 corresponded to test scores from people who were four to eight years younger and who were tested six years previously. This study also surveyed the use of cell phones and computers.

Evolving lifestyles could be the reason behind the results, according to Nadia Steiber, who wrote the first paper and co-authored the second. She elaborated by saying, “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.”

Sources for Today’s Article:
Paddock, C., “Today’s seniors are smarter but in poorer health, study finds,” Medical News Today web site, September 2, 2015;

Steiber, N., “Population aging at cross-roads: diverging secular trends in average cognitive functioning and physical health in the older population of Germany,” PLOS ONE August 31, 2015, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136583.
Bordone, V., et al.,  “Smarter every day: the deceleration of population ageing in terms of cognition,” Intelligence August 24, 2015, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136583.
“Older people getting smarter, but not fitter,” International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis web site, August 31, 2015;