Mental Ageing

Lead Research Organisation: University College London


Mental ageing refers to change or stability in later life cognition (i.e. knowing, learning and reasoning) and emotion (i.e. anxiety, depression and positive wellbeing). These processes are fundamental to our health, everyday life, and survival; which is why impairments in these functions are the biggest cause of disability in the UK.
Our aim is to investigate influences in these functions across the life course, and the consequences of this for daily living and other aspects of health. To achieve this we will study three themes. First, we will investigate cognitive and emotional resilience, i.e. good (or good enough) function in spite of adversity. Second, we will investigate cognitive and emotional function in relation to cardiovascular (i.e. heart and blood vessel) function; this is important because most of the modifiable risks we know about for dementia are cardiovascular in nature, particularly in midlife. Third, we will investigate the life course epidemiology of emotional function. Of particular interest here is whether depression becomes more or less common in later life, and if so, what factors across the life course determine that change in risk.

Technical Summary

We will investigate the life course causes and consequences of mental ageing, with regard to cognitive and psychological states and their change.
Mental ageing is fundamental to almost all major life outcomes, including other aspects of health, social relationships, economic security, independent living, and survival. Thus, impairments in cognitive and psychiatric state are, in combination, the biggest cause of disability in the UK.
This programme will be centred on the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD, the British 1946 birth cohort), requiring complex longitudinal and trans-system modelling; and on DELPHIC (acute stress).
To investigate cognitive and mental resilience to acute and chronic stressors
To investigate mental ageing in regard to cerebrovascular health
To investigate the life course epidemiology of depression


10 25 50