Those searching for another reason to stick to their resolution to give up cigarettes need look no further. A new study has warned that men who smoke are more likely to suffer dementia in later life.
Researchers found that smoking in men appears to be associated with a greater and more rapid cognitive decline.
Smoking is increasingly recognised as a risk factor for dementia in the elderly. And the number of dementia cases worldwide – estimated at 36 million in 2010 – is rising and is projected to double every 20 years.
Doctor Severine Sabia, of University College London, and her colleagues used the Whitehall II cohort study, which is based on employees of the Civil Service.
They examined the association between smoking history and cognitive decline in the transition from midlife to old age.
Data was obtained from 5,099 men and 2,137 women in the Whitehall II study, with an average age of 56 at the first cognitive assessment.
In the study, researchers analysed data using six assessments of smoking status over 25 years and three cognitive assessments over 10 years. They made four key findings.
The results suggest smoking in men is associated with more rapid cognitive decline, and men who continued to smoke over the follow-up experienced greater decline in all cognitive tests.
In addition, men who quit smoking in the 10 years preceding the first cognitive measure were still at risk of greater cognitive decline, especially in executive function – an umbrella term for various complex cognitive processes involved in achieving a particular goal.
However, long-term ex-smokers did not show faster cognitive decline.
Dr Sabia said: ‘Finally, our results show that the association between smoking and cognition, particularly at older ages, is likely to be underestimated owing to higher risk of death and dropout among smokers.’
She added that the results show no association between smoking and cognitive decline in women, although the underlying reasons remain unclear.
One explanation for the difference they observed between men and women might be the greater quantity of tobacco smoked by men.
The findings were published online in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
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