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Age related cognitive decline affects people’s quality of life and their ability to live independently.1 A recent review stated, “[we] are aware of no studies on the relationship between smoking and cognitive decline associated with normal aging or studies of the effect of smoking on cognition in normally aging individuals.”1 Some previous studies examined smoking in relation to pathological cognitive aging, but lacked cognitive data before the initiation of smoking, and used crude clinical cognitive assessments.2–4 Among middle aged subjects, current smoking was associated with poorer cognitive performance on tasks of psychomotor speed and cognitive flexibility.5 Smoking has been identified as a possible risk factor for accelerated cerebral degenerative changes, cognitive decline, and dementia.6 Here we show that smoking contributes to normal cognitive change from age 11 to age 80.
Participants, methods, and results
The Scottish Mental Survey of 1932 (SMS1932) tested mental ability in people born in 1921 (n = 87 498). The SMS1932’s Moray House test (MHT) was validated against the Stanford Binet test and includes verbal reasoning, numerical, spatial, and …