Middle aged men who smoke tend to have a more rapid mental decline than men who do not smoke, according to researchers at the University College London's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. But the link between smoking and cognitive decline does not appear among women.
The research suggested that the effects of long-term cigarette smoking show up in terms of memory loss, inability to connect past experiences with actions in the present and a drop in overall cognitive skills. Researchers were unsure of the mechanism behind smokers' rapid mental decline. They cited vascular or lung damage as the probable reason for this dementia.
The exact reason for this sex-difference remains unclear. Researchers suggest that the higher volume and longer duration of
cigarettes smoked by men in comparison to women could be the contributing
factors. Other lifestyle habits, like drinking more alcohol, may also account for this difference.
The study lead Severine Sabia said, "Our results show that the association between smoking and cognition,
particularly at older ages, is likely to be underestimated owing to higher risk of death and dropout among smokers."
The study illustrates the importance of examining risk factors for mental decline earlier in life.
The study is published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.