Effects of Age, Gender and Education on Selected Neuropsychological Tests in an Elderly Community Cohort

W. C. Wiederholt, Deborah Cahn-Weiner, Nelson M. Butters, David P. Salmon, Donna Kritz‐Silverstein, Elizabeth Barrett‐Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Objective: To establish population‐based data, with special emphasis on the effects of age, gender, and education, for eight, widely used neuropsychological tests in a community‐dwelling cohort of normal and cognitively impaired older adults. Design: A population‐based observational study. Setting: Examinations were performed in a research clinic by specially trained staff during a 1988–1992 evaluation for osteoporosis. Participants: 1,692 community‐dwelling subjects, aged 55 to 94 years, who were members of the Rancho Bernardo Heart and Chronic Disease Study initiated in 1972. The mean age for men was 73.9 years (SD 9.3) and for women, 73.5 (SD 9.1). Outcome measures: Eight neuropsychological tests were used to measure cognitive functions. Analysis of variance and post hoc contrasts were performed to determine the effects of age, gender, education, and their interactions on performance on these tests. Results: Performance on all tests decreased progressively, without leveling off, from the youngest, age 55, to the oldest, age 94. Women performed better on verbal tasks and men on tests of visuospatial, visuoconceptual, and mental control functions. Performances of men on several tests declined more rapidly with advancing age than those of women. Both men and women with some college education performed better on most tests than men and women with high school educations, and the rate of decline with age was sometimes slower in the college‐educated group. Only the savings score from the Visual Reproduction Test, which is a measure of rate of forgetting, and the scores of short‐term recall derived from the Selective Reminding Test (Buschke‐Fuld) were unaffected by educational attainment. Conclusions: In a community‐dwelling cohort, including normal and cognitively impaired elderly men and women, advancing age is accompanied by decline in cognitive functions as measured by neuropsychological tests. This decline is slower in women and in college‐educated subjects. Two cognitive indices were unaffected by education, and these may be especially useful in cross‐cultural studies. 1993 The American Geriatrics Society

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-647
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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