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Brain health in young adults

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: (Published 28 September 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o2311
  1. Francesca R Farina, research assistant professor1 ,
  2. Sarah Gregory, doctoral researcher2,
  3. Brian Lawlor, deputy executive director3,
  4. Laura Booi, research fellow4
  1. 1Northwestern University Chicago, IL 60610, USA
  2. 2University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9YL, UK
  3. 3Global Brain Health Institute, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  4. 4Leeds Beckett University, Leeds LS1 3HE, UK
  1. Correspondence to: F Farina francesca.farina{at}

We should promote brain health as an aspirational goal, like fitness

Early detection and management of risk factors is the best way to prevent the neurodegenerative changes that cause clinical dementia. Despite this, research on risks to brain health continues to focus on middle aged and older adults. Life course models of dementia focus on only one early risk factor—education—with the remaining factors focused on mid-life onwards.1 As a result, we are faced with a knowledge gap about brain health in young adults spanning over 20 years.

Good brain health is a state of optimal cognitive, sensory, social-emotional, and behavioural functioning.2 Understanding brain health in young adults is critical as they have the opportunity to make early and long term changes to minimise risk. This is particularly important now, given the widespread and serious consequences of the covid-19 pandemic on young peoples’ mental health.3

Young adults (born between 1981 and 2004) account for over 30% of the world’s population4 and have unique characteristics and contexts. Young adults are often more technologically enabled …

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