Men are frequently accused of forgetting birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and even something as simple as taking the trash out. But they have developed this stigma for a reason, a new study suggests; it found that men are more forgetful than women, regardless of their age.
The research team, led by Prof. Jostein Holmen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, published the study findings in the journal BMC Psychology.
To reach their conclusion, the investigators analyzed 37,405 men and women aged 30 years and older who were a part of a longitudinal population health study in Norway, called Hunt3.
The study participants were asked nine questions about their memory. These included questions regarding whether their memory has changed since they were younger, and whether they have problems remembering dates or what events happened a few days or years ago.
The results revealed that approximately half of the participants reported memory problems. Of these, 1.2% were women, while 1.6% were men. For eight out of nine questions, men reported the most problems.
Overall, the researchers found that memory problems increased with age. But in all age groups, men reported more memory problems than women.
Furthermore, the investigators were surprised to find that younger men forget just as much as older men.
Commenting on the findings, Prof. Holmen says:
“It was surprising to see that men forget more than women. This has not been documented before. It was also surprising to see that men are just as forgetful whether they are 30 or 60 years old. The results were unambiguous.”
The researchers hypothesize that gender differences in memory may be down to a number of reasons.
These risk factors, which are more prevalent in men, may trigger forms of neurodegeneration – explaining why men have more memory problems than women.
But the researchers note that their study found no evidence pointing to this as the reason. Therefore, the gender differences in memory are still unclear.
“We have speculated a lot about why men report more frequent problems with remembering than women do, but have not been able to find an explanation. This is still an unsolved mystery,” adds Prof. Holmen.
The researchers say they plan to carry out further studies to determine whether individuals who report having memory problems at a younger age may have an increased risk of developing dementia.
“Several studies have indicated that SMI (subjective memory impairment) might be a precursor of aMCI (amnestic mild cognitive impairment) and eventually dementia, suggesting that SMI might be of importance in recognizing early cognitive impairment,” the study authors write.
“The findings in the present study should therefore be tested in other populations, and prospective studies might also reveal how important the recorded memory complaints are as precursors of impaired cognition.”
Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting men’s brains are wired differently to women’s brains, which may explain why men excel at some tasks, and women at others.