People who have never learned to read and write could be at greater risk for dementia.
Researchers studied 983 adults aged 65 and over for four or less school years. Ninety per cent were immigrants from the Dominican Republic, where there were limited opportunities for schooling. Many were learning to read outside school, but 237 could not read or write.
Over an average of three and a half years, participants periodically tested memory, language and reasoning.
Non-literary men and women were 2.65 times as likely as literacy to have dementia at the start of the study, and twice as likely to be developed at last. However, illiterate people did not show a reduced skills rate faster than those who could read and write.
The analysis, in Neurology, control for sex, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and other dementia risk factors. “Early life exposure and early-life social opportunities affect life later,” said the senior author, Jennifer J. Manly, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia. “This is the fundamental theme here. A life course of exposures and contingencies and opportunities leads to a healthy brain later in life. ”
“We would like to extend this research to other communities,” she said. “Our hypothesis is that this is relevant and consistent across the illiterate adult community.”