The Cognitive Effects of Statins are Modified by Age

Sci Rep. 2020 Apr 10;10(1):6187. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-63035-2.


To reveal new insights into statin cognitive effects, we performed an observational study on a population-based sample of 245,731 control and 55,114 statin-taking individuals from the UK Biobank. Cognitive performance in terms of reaction time, working memory and fluid intelligence was analysed at baseline and two follow-ups (within 5-10 years). Subjects were classified depending on age (up to 65 and over 65 years) and treatment duration (1-4 years, 5-10 years and over 10 years). Data were adjusted for health- and cognition-related covariates. Subjects generally improved in test performance with repeated assessment and middle-aged persons performed better than older persons. The effect of statin use differed considerably between the two age groups, with a beneficial effect on reaction time in older persons and fluid intelligence in both age groups, and a negative effect on working memory in younger subjects. Our analysis suggests a modulatory impact of age on the cognitive side effects of statins, revealing a possible reason for profoundly inconsistent findings on statin-related cognitive effects in the literature. The study highlights the importance of characterising modifiers of statin effects to improve knowledge and shape guidelines for clinicians when prescribing statins and evaluating their side effects in patients.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Problem Solving / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • United Kingdom


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors