The Scottish, English and Welsh men and women who were tested are part of a long-term study into health, education and relationships. They have been tracked since their birth in the same week in and, on turning 50, were asked by researchers at the University of London's Institute of Education to take part in memory tests and other experiments.
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In the first, they listened to ten everyday words and were given two minutes to recall as many as possible. They were then required to list the same ten words five minutes later.
The women beat the men J Ad Dating Woman times, scoring 5 per cent higher on the first test and almost 8 per cent higher on the second. They were also quicker in a third test in which they were asked to cross out as many Ps and Ws as possible in a 'wordsearch'.
In a fourth test, which involved naming as many animals as possible in a minute, men and women had identical scores, with each naming an average of The memory differences were apparent even when factors such as health and education were taken into account.
The study is the first time such a large number of middle-aged men and women in the UK have had their memories tested. Research director Professor Jane Elliott said: 'What is really interesting is we found it even when we controlled for things such as how much people smoke and drink and what sort of job they are in.
One theory is the biological cause could be linked to levels of female sex hormone oestrogen.
Because many of the British women in the study were at or close to the menopause, this means that in other age groups the gender gap could be even wider. Professor Elliott said: 'We would expect for women to do even better as they get older.
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