A new study reveals that 70-year-olds today do far better in intelligence tests than their predecessors.
The research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, involves a large proportion of 70-year-olds from Gothenburg, Sweden, who have been extensively examined over the years, including tests that measure memory, speed, language, logic and spatial awareness.
"While this worked well for the group of 70-year-olds born in 1901-02, the same tests didn't offer any clues about who will develop dementia in the later generation of 70-year-olds born in 1930," said Simona Sacuiu, resident in psychiatry at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and medical researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy's Unit of Neuropsychiatric Epidemiology.
There were no differences in test results between 70-year-olds who developed dementia and those who did not over the next five years in the group born in 1930 and examined in 2000, while many of the tests identified early signs of dementia in the group born in 1901-02.
"The improvement can partly be explained by better pre- and neonatal care, better nutrition, higher quality of education, better treatment of high blood pressure and other vascular diseases, and not least the higher intellectual requirements of today's society, where access to advanced technology, television and the Internet has become part of everyday life," said Sacuiu.
"If we are to identify dementia effectively at an early stage, we need good tools that include psychometric tests. However, these must constantly be adapted to new generations, as older people are performing better and better in standardised psychometric tests," she added.
However, the incidence of dementia is just as common between the ages of 70 and 75 today as it was 30 years ago.
Results from the study were published earlier this year in the American journal Neurology.