Научная статья на тему 'Mental health, cognitive capital and the modern education system'

Mental health, cognitive capital and the modern education system Текст научной статьи по специальности «Клиническая медицина»

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Текст научной работы на тему «Mental health, cognitive capital and the modern education system»




V. A. Rozanov T. E. Reytarova

Global life expectancy has been growing linearly from the end of the 19th century onwards. This is due to improved nutrition, global enhancement of the standard of living, and related progress in medicine, which has defeated the majority of mass fatal infectious diseases. Positive global change is accompanied by demographic modernization: a transition from high birth rates, high infant mortality and low average life expectancy to low birth rates, low infant mortality and high life expectancy. In the nearest decade, the number of elderly people (older than 65 years of age) will exceed the number of children (below 18 years of age), and by the year 2040, the percentage of the elderly will reach 14% in the world and up to 25% in Europe. These trends are also relevant to the post-Soviet countries. An increase in the average life expectancy in different countries is both an achievement and a challenge for mankind, because society now faces new tasks: changes in family structure, the nature of work, pension payments, and relations between different age groups, etc. Special importance is attached to the main problem of elderly people: how to maintain cognitive performance, prevent mental disability, i.e. how to save cognitive capital and ensure intellectual succession between generations.

Modern understanding of these problems is developed in the context of the concept of mental health. Mental health is the condition of well-being, when a person can fulfill his/her capabilities, is able to manage ordinary stresses of life, work effectively and fruitfully, and contribute to his/her community, all while enjoying life. The key components of mental health are emotional intelligence and cognitive health. They are regarded as the crucial potential of society as a whole which determines its competitiveness in the modern globalized and highly competitive world. Determinants of mental health are regarded from the perspective of bio-psycho-social synthesis. These are biological factors (genotype, prenatal development, standardization of development and make-up of an individual, and the health of children and the teenage population), psycho-social factors (standard of living, social structure of society, extent of socio-economic inequality, psycho-social stress), psychological factors (individual and personal characteristics, lifestyle, behavior), ethnic and cultural characteristics and traditions. Thus, mental health is a multi-component category which depends on numerous factors that often interact with each other. On the other hand, mental health is a determinant of many aspects of life of an individual and society as a whole. Positive mental health has a favorable influence on total mortality and morbidity rates, lifestyles, productivity of work, effectiveness of education, etc.

It should be emphasized that positive mental health of wider communities is mainly achieved by educational rather than medical efforts, as well as by efforts aimed at building healthy lifestyles. It is very important to take due consideration of a combination of biological and psycho-social factors in the development and


further aging of a person. Results of the relatively recent Foresight research project implemented in the UK have supported the conviction that early discovery and remediation of cognitive problems and mental health disorders in childhood and teenage years is of principal significance for the prevention of mental health disorders and mitigation of cognitive aging among the elderly. The leading role in supporting important indicators of the development of society, such as mental wellbeing and cognitive capital, is played by lifelong education, which according to modern ideas should accompany an individual throughout his/her life and through old age. The promotion of these views has coincided with changes in traditions in gerontoneurobiology and neurocognitive sciences (neuropsychology, neurogenetics, biological psychology of intelligence). In the past, it was believed that nerve cells are built during embryonic development and then progressively die throughout life, leading to irreparable losses resulting in inevitable impairment of cognitive performance, whereas preservation of functions was rather an exception than a rule. New views which are based on the ideas of neuroplasticity and the role of stem cells say that neurogenesis continues in the brain throughout life, including in old age, and the brain begins to work with maximum performance by the age of 50-70 years. Furthermore, myelination enhances with age, improving interneuron conductivity. As a result, elderly people are less impulsive, less prone to emotional responses, more associative, i.e. ultimately more intellectual, especially taking into account the current mode of information overload.

All the above enables us to make several statements that can be regarded as a substantiation of a new area in lifelong education. We have in mind not only education for the elderly as a very important component of the modern educational process, but also a wide range of educational measures and programs consistent in terms of applicability in different periods of life. The capabilities of the human brain should be enhanced both in childhood and in middle and elderly age, keeping in mind that early overcoming of difficulties at learning creates prospects for cognitive health in old age. This sets the goal of early identification of mental health disorders and impairment of well-being of teenagers, and prevention of negative tendencies (anxiety, depression, consuming psychoactive substances and smoking). The second crucial goal is to create a system of lifelong education in the form of time consistent programs for people of different ages aiming at improving competitiveness, cognitive performance and preserving mental well-being. Developing such programs requires involving government agencies, the education system, employers of different forms of business ownership, and social and pension funds. Apparently it is necessary to undertake comprehensive research on the efficiency of such programs, taking into account biological and psycho-social factors of mental health and cognitive capital.


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