Cognitive performance in young adulthood and midlife: Relations with age, sex, and education-The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study

Neuropsychology. 2016 Jul;30(5):532-42. doi: 10.1037/neu0000239. Epub 2015 Nov 2.


Objective: Age, education, and sex associate with cognitive performance. We investigated associations between age, sex, education, and cognitive performance in young or middle-aged adults and evaluated data reduction methods to optimally capture cognitive performance in our population-based data.

Method: This study is part of the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. The 3,596 randomly selected subjects (aged 3-18 years in 1980) have been followed up for 30 years. In 2011, a computer-based cognitive testing battery (the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery [CANTAB]) was used to assess several cognitive domains. Principal component analysis, categorical and standardized classifications were applied to the cognitive data.

Results: Among 34- to 49-year-old participants, cognitive performance declined with age, while education associated with better cognitive functions in several cognitive domains. Men had higher performance on all cognitive domains except visual or episodic memory, in which women outperformed men. The results were similar regardless of the data reduction method used.

Conclusions: The associations between sex, age, education, and cognitive performance are already apparent in young adulthood or middle age. Principal component analyses, categorical and standardized classifications are useful tools to analyze CANTAB cognitive data. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cognition*
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors*