Men who smoke tend to have a more rapid mental decline than men who do not smoke, a new study shows. But the findings did not reveal a similar link between smoking and mental decline in female smokers.
Although the exact reason for the sex difference is unclear, one possibility is that women tend to smoke fewer cigarettes a day than men do and for fewer years. Other lifestyle habits, such as male smokers drinking more alcohol, may also account for some differences seen.
In the study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, scientists analyzed data from nearly 6,000 men and more than 2,100 women who were British civil servants. To evaluate their thinking abilities, participants were given their first mental assessment at midlife, an average age of 56.
The assessment included five tests of memory, vocabulary, and reasoning (verbal and math) skills. Participants were retested two more times (every five years) over a decade.
To determine volunteers’ smoking habits over a 25-year period, researchers looked at their then-current smoking status and past history, including whether they had quit or relapsed.
Faster mental decline was seen in middle-age men who currently smoked than men who never did.