The number of senior Americans who are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is declining. According to one study, researchers think that one reason for this decline might be because of an increase in education.
This new study looked at two different studies of over 10,000 Americans, ages 65 and older, from several different ethnic, geographic, and economic backgrounds. These two separate studies were done in the years 2000 and 2012. In the study from 2000, 11.6 percent had been diagnosed with some form of dementia. In the 2012 study, only 8.8 percent had been diagnosed with dementia, showing that the number of dementia cases had dropped over 12 years.
While the number of dementia cases dropped over that time period, the average amount of education in the population showed an increase. In 2000, the average amount of education was 11.8 years, or just slightly less than high school education. In 2012, the average age of education had gone up to 12.7 years, or high school and some college.
Researchers have several theories as to why more education might protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. One of the biggest possibilities is that education might actually change the makeup of the brain, creating more complicated connections between nerve cells. Because the trend has been seen in people from all different places and walks of life, it will be easier for researchers to find where the connection is.