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Cambridge University Science Magazine

Until now, the folk hypothesis regarding the link between education and dementia has assumed that an increase in the former acts as a buffer towards the latter, substantially lowering the risk of dementia diagnosis. But Cambridge and Finnish researchers, publishing their results in the most recent issue of Brain, have now demonstrated that education acts more as a coping mechanism for the disease, while also decreasing risk [1].

The international team examined the brains of almost 900 people who had been participants in ageing studies. Post-mortem analysis showed the pathology of the disease to be the same regardless of differing education levels. Yet differing education levels appeared to have a significant impact on whether the participants displayed symptoms of their pathology towards death.

It also confirmed the folk hypothesis, demonstrating that for each year spent in education there was an 11% decreased risk of developing dementia.

The task now, argue the authors, is for scientists to discover why this effect occurs, and for policy makers to rethink resource allocation in light of these new links between health and education.

Written by Taylor Burns


  1. L. White, “Educational attainment and mid-life stress as risk factors for dementia in late life,” Brain (2010),