Taking adult education classes may lower risk of dementia, study suggests

Taking an adult education class could help lower your risk of developing dementia, researchers have found.

Middle-aged and senior citizens in adult education have a 19 per cent reduced chance of developing the condition within five years, a new study suggests.

The findings also suggest that people who took the classes kept up their fluid intelligence – the ability to reason quickly and to think abstractly – and non-verbal reasoning performance better than peers who did not.

First author Dr Hikaru Takeuchi, of Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, said: “Here we show that people who take adult education classes have a lower risk of developing dementia five years later.

“Adult education is likewise associated with better preservation of non-verbal reasoning with increasing age.”

“Here we show that people who take adult education classes have a lower risk of developing dementia five years later.

Dr Takeuchi and his co-author Dr Ryuta Kawashima, also a professor at the Institute of Development, Ageing and Cancer at the university, analysed data from 282,421 people in the UK Biobank, which holds genetic, health, and medical information from approximately half a million British volunteers,

They had enrolled between 2006 and 2010, when they were between 40 and 69, and had been followed up for an average of seven years at the time of the new study.

Based on their DNA, people were given an individual predictive risk score for dementia, and self-reported if they took any adult education classes, without specifying the frequency, subject, or academic level.

The study looked at data from the enrolment visit and third assessment visit, between 2014 and 2018.


Those enrolled in the study were given psychological and cognitive tests, for example for fluid intelligence, visuospatial memory and reaction time.

According to the study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 1.1 per cent of people in the sample developed dementia over the course of the study.

It also found that people who were taking part in adult education, at enrolment had 19 per cent lower risk of developing dementia than participants who did not.

The results were similar when people with a history of diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, cancer or mental illness were excluded.

The researchers suggest this means the observed lower risk was not exclusively due to people with developing dementia being prevented from following adult education by symptoms of these known conditions.

Dr Kawashima said: “One possibility is that engaging in intellectual activities has positive results on the nervous system, which in turn may prevent dementia.

“But ours is an observational longitudinal study, so if a direct causal relationship exists between adult education and a lower risk of dementia, it could be in either direction.”

Do you take any adult education classes? Have you considered it? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Why spring cleaning is good for your mental health

PA Media
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