Men Both Old and Young Are Forgetful

February 3, 2014

Minor subjective memory problems are very common among men-young as well as old-a new study shows.

Minor subjective memory problems are very common among men-young as well as old-according to the results of a new study.

“It was surprising to see that men are just as forgetful whether they are 30 years old or 60 years old. The results were unambiguous," said Professor Jostein Holmen, MD, PhD, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway.

So why do men report memory problems? “Cognitive function is associated with cerebrovascular diseases, and men have an increased vascular risk in general. Therefore, one hypothesis might be that the impaired subjective memory in men is associated with cerebrovascular risk,” Dr Holmen told ConsultantLive.

However, Dr Holmen noted that “when adjusting for relevant confounding factors in the analyses, the gender association did not change. That gender differences were seen even in younger age groups, where the cerebrovascular risk is small, does not support the hypothesis either.”

“We have discussed if the lower participation rate in men could have introduced a selection bias but found no support for this. We therefore conclude that we presently cannot fully explain the gender differences,” continued Dr Holmen. He also has no good explanation for why young men are also forgetful.

Dr Holmen and colleagues asked 9 questions about how well persons think they remember as a part of a large longitudinal population health study conducted in mid-Norway. The study is one of the largest health studies ever performed, with answers from more than 48,000 people, about half of them men.

The participants were asked how often they had problems remembering things, whether they had problems with remembering names and dates, if they could remember what they did 1 year ago, and if they were able to remember details from conversations. Nearly half reported memory problems. Men reported the most problems for 8 of the 9 questions.

Persons who are more highly educated forget less than those with less education and persons who experience anxiety or depression forget more than other persons do, the results show. Memory problems began to accelerate overall in the 60- to 70-year-old group.

“It is important to note that our study measured subjective memory problems, that is, people reported their own experiences. To measure memory objectively, we need specific tests, and we did not do that,” said Dr Holmen. “Also, even the gender differences were consistent in 8 out of 9 questions, the differences were not large between genders, and we don’t know if they have any clinical significance. Therefore, we should interpret the results with caution. The study needs to be replicated in other populations before we can draw a strong conclusion.”

Also, Dr Holmen said he wants to see whether persons who self-reported problems with remembering at a younger age are also at higher risk for dementia.

Dr Holmen offers some basic advice for persons to protect against memory problems: “Be active intellectually, physically, and socially. This is the advice we have always given, and it is still true,” he said. “This is especially important in old age.”