Objective: Evidence shows education positively impacts cognitive ability. However, researchers have given little attention to the potential impact of adult education on cognitive ability, still malleable in midlife. The primary study aim was to examine whether there were continuing effects of education over the life course on midlife cognitive ability.
Methods: This study used data from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, also known as the British 1946 birth cohort, and multivariate regression to estimate the continuing effects of adult education on multiple measures of midlife cognitive ability.
Result: Educational attainment completed by early adulthood was associated with all measures of cognitive ability in late midlife. The continued effect of education was apparent in the associations between adult education and higher verbal ability, verbal memory, and verbal fluency in late midlife. We found no association between adult education and mental speed and concentration.
Discussion: Associations between adult education and midlife cognitive ability indicate wider benefits of education to health that may be important for social integration, well-being, and the delay of cognitive decline in later life.