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Dementia cut by longer schooling

30th March 2009

Researchers at Cambridge University say that increasing the school leaving age to 15 in 1947 could have an impact on the numbers of dementia sufferers today.

Teenager1

It is estimated that 700,000 dementia sufferers are alive in the UK at present and that by 2051 this figure could increase to 1.7 million.

The study looked at the cognitive function of older people and discovered that those born after the laws were changed had lower rates of the disease.

The research team drew comparisons between test results for a selection of more than 9,000 people over the age of 65 in 1991 with the scores of over 5,000 over-65s tested in 2002.

Both groups were given a test for dementia where they had to name as many animals as they could in sixty seconds.

The research showed there was a "small but potentially significant increase" in the amount of words employed by people in 2002.

Research carried out previously demonstrated that education helps to increase the amount of neural connections in the brain.

Dr David Llewellyn, the study's leader, said: "These findings are important because they affect our projection of what's likely to happen in the future."

"It's not going to prevent what is essentially an epidemic of dementia, but it may mean it might not be quite as bad as we have predicted."




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