Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

New study shows brain declines in 40s


The brains functioning can slow down around 15 years earlier than first believed, according to a new 10-year study.

Scientists from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in France and University College London, said mental function can start to decline as early as 45.

It was widely thought 60 was the age when people’s thinking abilities started to change.

The study looked at more than 7,000 people over a decade, with research mainly focusing on civil servants aged between 45 and 70 at the start of cognitive testing in 1997 to 1999.

In men, there was a 3.6% drop in reasoning over the decade, among those who were aged 45 to 49 at the start of the study and 9.6% among those aged 65 to 70.

In women, the decline was 3.6% and 7.4% in the same age groups respectively.

The study, which has been published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), said: “Cognitive decline is already evident in middle age (age 45-49).”

“Life expectancy continues to increase, and understanding cognitive ageing will be one of the challenges of this century.

“Poor cognitive status is perhaps the single most disabling condition in old age.”




Readers' comments (13)

  • Ha! I can relate to that as certainly my stamina is not so good and I am slower than in my 20's and 30's. And the govenment want nurses to work until we are 70???? Get real, we are knackered physically by nursing and mentally we need to be alert to ensure good patient care and if this is true then our health service will be run and administered by poorly performing elderly people who are sitting in jobs that the younger people have no chance of getting until we all die.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • We are all doomed... The stress of working in health care will either cause accelerated cognitive decline, or we will simply burn out... Either way we will not be able to nurse any longer.
    Good reason therefore for employers to look after their staff while they still have them.
    I can imagine the poor 70 year old nurse hobbling around the ward like Mrs Overall (for those younger than me which is quite a few of you dear readers she was a character in Victoria Wood's comedy show sketch, entitled Acorn Antiques. Please look it up on You Tube. Laughter being the best medicine and all that...
    Happy New Year!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In the light of this article I think everybody should be pensioned off in the mid-40s to eliminate any risks!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment


    link to study in the BMJ online

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In my mid fifties and my brain is tired and slower, I have to write everything down or I forget. In my mid 60,s I will be a danger.
    How do I prove I need to be pensioned off quick.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 7-Jan-2012 5:54 pm

    Same here. Maybe a good lawyer could help prove our case but then we would have to give him/her all our hard earned wages/pension.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • thought the RCN provided free legal advice?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • how does a 3.6 to 9.6% drop in reasoning ability over ten years compare with the ten hour or ten day drops in reasoning ability due to things like a heavy cold, awkward shifts, family worries, etc?

    does a 9.6% decline constitute a safety critical fitness to practise issue or is it well within the normal range of indidvidual daily variability? the authors seem concerned with early cognitive decline as a predictor of later dementia, with the possility of early intervention. they're missing a trick if this really does have implications for retirement age in safety critical careers such as nursing, air traffic control or nuclear engineering.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • michael stone

    I spent a while last Thursday afternoon 'thinking' it was Friday afternoon - I strongly suspect my brain now (58) isn't as good as it was when I was 20, but I can't remember enough to be very certain !

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Sorry, can`t remember what I was going to comment on.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 1020results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.