People’s beliefs and expectations about how cognitive skills change with age: Evidence from a UK-wide aging survey

Eleftheria Vaportzis, Alan J. Gow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


We conducted a U.K.-wide survey to collect information on people's beliefs, fears, perceptions, and attitudes to cognitive aging.

This community-based aging survey included 3,146 adults aged 40 years and over.

Respondents believed memory might be the earliest cognitive skill to decline (mean: 59.4 years), followed by speed of thinking (mean: 64.9). Those in their 40s were more pessimistic, because they estimated cognitive changes would start up to 15 years earlier than respondents aged over 70. Having a purpose in life, healthy eating, challenging the mind, sleep, and physical activity ranked higher in terms of perceived importance for maintaining or improving cognitive skills. However, less than 50% engaged in any of these activities. Although 91% believed there are things people can do to maintain or improve their cognitive skills, more than 40% were unsure or did not know how to do so. Respondents who strongly agreed that changes in cognitive skills might be a sign of something more serious were significantly more likely to do various activities to benefit their cognitive skills.

Results suggest that people are less aware of the potential cognitive benefits of certain activities, such as exercise and diet. It is important to build awareness about the benefits of lifestyles and activities for cognitive health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-805
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number7
Early online date4 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


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