BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7303.58 (Published 07 July 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:58

Minerva was amused to read that old women do better in their dotage than men. Different levels of formal education are thought to explain differences in mental performance in very old people. In this Dutch study of 600 people aged 85, the proportion of women with limited formal education was significantly higher than that of men (70% v 53%), but the women had decidedly better scores for cognitive speed and memory (Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 2001;71:29-32). Biological differences, such as atherosclerosis, may offer a more plausible explanation.

The American editor of Archives of Disease in Childhood (2001;85:11) has drawn up an interesting list of what's up and down in US health care. Up are costs (increasing 8% annually), the number of uninsured Americans (1 in 6 citizens), immunisation rates, the budget for the National Institutes of Health ($20 billion), and medical errors. Down are oral antibiotic use, the assumed (arguably hyped) benefits of the human genome project, and, hopefully soon, the number of children insured (due to a new state child health insurance programme).

Nicotine replacement therapy helps many people to stop smoking, but there could be a down side. New research in mice suggests that nicotine …

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