Women's brains age better than men's, study suggests
The amount of time men spend in a state of 'mild cognitive impairment' increased slightly, scientists found
Published 09/12/2015 | 11:33
Women are less prone to memory problems in old age but men are less likely to be affected by disabilities, a study suggests.
The amount of time that men spent in a state of 'mild cognitive impairment' increased slightly, scientists from Newcastle and Cambridge Universities found.
It contradicts other research which predicts that rates of dementia will increase as people live for longer.
However, men's life expectancy has increased more than women's since the 1990s, the research showed.
Between 1991 and 2011, the remaining lifespan of women aged 65 in England went up by 3.6 years, and that of men by 4.5 years.
While for women the amount of time spent coping with moderate or severe disability had increased by seven months, and with mild disability by 2.5 years, the same trend was not seen in men.
Men had only 1.3 more years of mild disability and saw no increase at all in the length of time they were affected by moderate or severe disability.
World Health Organisation figures for 2011 put life expectancy figures for men in the UK at 78.8 years and 82.7 years for women.
Professor Carol Jagger, from the University of Newcastle, who led the research published in The Lancet medical journal, said: "The big unanswered question is whether our extra years of life are healthy ones and the aim of our research was to investigate how health expectancies at age 65 years and over changed between 1991 and 2011.
"One possibility for the increased years women are living with mild disability might be the rise in obesity levels over the decades, but there may also be particular conditions, or just more multiple diseases, which are a feature of very old age."
The team compared two rounds of the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study, conducted in England in 1991 and 2011.
A total of 7,635 people aged 65 and over took part in the research in Newcastle, Cambridge and Nottingham.
Prof Jagger added: "Our findings have important implications for Government, employees and individuals with respect to raising the state pension age and extending working life.
"It is also necessary for community care services and family carers who predominantly support those with mild to moderate disability to enable them to continue living independently."
In most developed countries worldwide, life expectancy is increasing at the rate of at least two years every decade.