AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond

Though many studies have found that college graduates earn more money, it looks like there may be an even better reason to dig in deep for the sheepskin. According to the Midlife in the United States, or ‘Midus study,’ a very large study involving more than 7000 people over the course of many years, a college degree appears to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade. The findings appear to be true regardless of other factors such as differences in income, parental achievement, gender, physical activity, and age.

According to an article in the New York Times, the effect seems, perhaps surprisingly, to be truer for ‘fluid intelligence,’ described as “the abilities that produce solutions not based on experience, like pattern recognition, working memory and abstract thinking, but rather the kind of intelligence tested on I.Q. examinations.” ‘Crystallized intelligence,’ by contrast, “generally refers to skills that are acquired through experience and education, like verbal ability, inductive reasoning and judgment.” The interesting finding of this study is the fact that the ‘fluid’ intelligence that appears to benefit more from schooling, is often considered largely a product of genetics, and ‘crystallized’ intelligence would seemingly be far more dependent on influences, including “personality, motivation, opportunity and culture.”

All other conditions being equal, the more years of schooling a subject had, the better he or she performed on every mental test. Up to age 75, the studies showed, “people with college degrees performed on complex tasks like less-educated individuals who were 10 years younger.” If the overall health of the brain can be improved with continued education, perhaps it’s time to consider going back to school!

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