Older women do have memory issues – but fewer than men

From forgetfulness to 'brain fog,' women are often plagued by memory-related problems during menopause – but despite the many obstacles, they still have a better memory than men.

In a new study, researchers compared the memory capabilities of middle-aged women and men, and found that women outperform their male counterparts across all measures.

The findings also shed light on the memory deficits that occur in postmenopausal women, revealing that those who have entered this stage have more difficulty learning and retrieving previously recalled information.

The study, published online in the journal Menopause, investigated the differences between the sexes along with those among women at various points of the menopause process.

They assessed 212 men and women aged 45 to 55 for episodic memory, executive function, semantic processing, and estimated verbal intelligence.

To test associative memory and episodic verbal memory, the researchers used Face-Name Associative Memory Exam and Selective Reminding Test.

Across the board, the researchers found that women outperformed the age-matched men.

But they also found that as estradiol levels drop in postmenopausal women, so do their rates of initial learning and the retrieval of recalled information.

This is compared with premenopausal and perimenopausal women, who outperformed postmenopausal women in a number of areas.

According to the researchers, roughly 75 per cent of older people experience memory-related problems. And this is especially the case for women.

It's known that women experience forgetfulness and 'brain fog' during the menopause transition, and compared to men, women are disproportionately at risk for memory impairment and dementia.

And now, the study has highlighted some of the areas that are affected.

While initial learning and information retrieval declined, the researchers found that memory storage and consolidation remained intact in postmenopausal women.

''Brian fog and complains of memory issues should be taken seriously,'' says Dr JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. ''This study and others have shown that these complaints are associated with memory deficits.''