People’s Brains Don’t Reach Adulthood Until Age 30, Study Finds

Scientists explained our brains don't reach adulthood until our 30s at a new meeting on brain development.

Melisa Matthews |

There’s a good reason why managing adult responsibilities only became somewhat bearable in your 30s, according to researchers.

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Although anyone over 18 years old is considered an adult, scientists argue that our brains don’t mature that quickly, The Independent reports. Speaking at a meeting of the Academy of Medical Sciences in Oxford in London, researchers explained that our brains slowly transition to adulthood, which is finally reached in our 30s.

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“What we’re really saying is that to have a definition of when you move from childhood to adulthood looks increasingly absurd,” professor Peter Jones, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, explained at the meeting. “It’s a much more nuanced transition that takes place over three decades.”

As Dr. Frances E. Jensen, author of The Teenage Brain, explained to Men’s Health US in our March issue, our brains don’t fully develop until we’re we’re almost 30.

So what does this mean for us? The prolonged state of development allows us to learn new concepts more quickly, she said. Plus, people get deeper sleep in their 30s, meaning the impact of those late night Netflix binges are partially counterbalanced, Men’s Health sleep advisor Dr. Christopher Winter, said. But this also means that excessive alcohol or drug use while your brain is still developing may have lasting impact.

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A paper published in JAMA Psychiatry in June 2018 reviewed 69 studies looking at how adolescent brains responded to using cannabis. They found that young people who frequently got high were more likely to have lower scores on memory tests, and had difficulty learning new information and problem solving compared to their sober peers.

Of course, there will come a time when you long for that adolescent brain, and thinking about brain health is an important, and very adult thing to do.

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