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As Suspected, Women’s Memories Last Longer than Men’s

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It’s one of the oldest marital spats in the books: you remember an event one way and your spouse remembers it completely differently. That, then, spirals into an argument about who has the best memory. It’s such a chestnut, there’s even a song about it.

But now, no less an authority than the Mayo Clinic has done a study that suggests science is on women’s side. Men’s memories fail before women’s do, the data show. Technically, the study is only relevant to people who are older than 70, but that’s no reason not to mention the findings to your husband if the occasion calls for  it.

According to research published on Sept 7 in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is 1.5 tmes more likely to occur in older men than in older women.

MCI is a condition in which people have problems with memory or thinking that aren’t just the result of normal aging. It can be the first sign of Alzheimer’s, even though that disease is more common in women than men. “If these results are confirmed in other studies, it may suggest that factors related to gender play a role in the disease,” said the study’s author Ronald Petersen. “For example, men may experience cognitive decline earlier in life but more gradually, whereas women may transition from normal memory directly to dementia at a later age but more quickly.”

The study looked at about 2,000 Minnesotans, aged 70 to 89. It found that 19% of the men had MCI, while only 14% of the women did. Even after accounting for education, age and diseases, men had a 50% higher chance of having a worse-than-normal memory.

Next time you’re having a domestic dispute about who’s right, though, see if you can remember this. Another factor that increases your chances of cognitive impairment: never marrying. Maybe that’s because single people don’t get to argue enough.

More Photography from Time

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