A new American study reports that baby boomers perform worse on cognitive tests than their elders at the same age. A first for several generations.

They were thought to be much healthier than their elders because of a better lifestyle, but this is clearly far from the case, at least cognitively.

According to a new American study published on July 29 in The Journals of Gerontology, baby boomers generally have lower cognitive abilities than the previous generation at the same age.

The researchers here analyzed the results of cognitive tests of 30,191 Americans who participated in a large survey between 1996 and 2014, conducted by the University of Michigan. People over 51 were interviewed every two years. As part of the study, participants took a cognitive test where they were asked to remember words they heard earlier, count down from 100 to 7, or name objects that were shown to them.

Verdict: The average cognitive scores of adults aged 50 and over increased from generation to generation, peaking in WWII babies born between 1942 and 1947. However, scores started to drop in early babies. -boomers, born between 1948 and 1953, and declined further in those born between 1954 and 1959.

“It is shocking to see this decline in cognitive functioning among baby boomers after generations of increasing test scores,” commented Hui Zheng, professor of sociology and co-author of the study. “But what amazed me most is that this decline is observed in all groups: men and women, of all ethnicities and at all levels of education, income and wealth,” added the researcher, stating that "the declines [in cognitive decline] were only slightly smaller among the wealthier and more educated".

The results also showed that poorer cognitive functioning in baby boomers was associated with higher levels of loneliness, depression, inactivity and obesity, among others.

Seeking to find out what could have happened to the “boomers” that caused them to experience such a cognitive decline, the researcher and his team continued their investigations. The problem would not come from difficult living conditions during childhood, since baby boomers have generally benefited from rather favorable conditions. Health, level of education and socioeconomic status would also be rather in their favor.

For the researchers, the factors to blame would rather come from the increase in cardiovascular disease, obesity, isolation, and sedentary lifestyle. And it may well be that this cognitive decline is confirmed in subsequent generations, unless, according to the authors, the risk factors are effectively addressed. Regardless, since cognitive decline and dementia are linked, they believe that an increase in dementia cases is to be expected in the coming years.