BackgroundThe prevalence of dementia varies around the world, potentially contributed to by international differences in rates of age-related cognitive decline. Our primary goal was to investigate how rates of age-related decline in cognitive test performance varied among international cohort studies of cognitive aging. We also determined the extent to which sex, educational attainment, and apolipoprotein E ε4 allele (APOE*4) carrier status were associated with decline.Methods and findingsWe harmonized longitudinal data for 14 cohorts from 12 countries (Australia, Brazil, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States), for a total of 42,170 individuals aged 54-105 y (42% male), including 3.3% with dementia at baseline. The studies began between 1989 and 2011, with all but three ongoing, and each had 2-16 assessment waves (median = 3) and a follow-up duration of 2-15 y. We analyzed standardized Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and memory, processing speed, language, and executive functioning test scores using linear mixed models, adjusted for sex and education, and meta-analytic techniques. Performance on all cognitive measures declined with age, with the most rapid rate of change pooled across cohorts a moderate -0.26 standard deviations per decade (SD/decade) (95% confidence interval [CI] [-0.35, -0.16], p ConclusionsCognitive performance declined with age, and more rapidly with increasing age, across samples from diverse ethnocultural groups and geographical regions. Associations varied across cohorts, suggesting that different rates of cognitive decline might contribute to the global variation in dementia prevalence. However, the many similarities and consistent associations with education and APOE genotype indicate a need to explore how international differences in associations with other risk factors such as genetics, cardiovascular health, and lifestyle are involved. Future studies should attempt to use multiple tests for each cognitive domain and feature populations from ethnocultural groups and geographical regions for which we lacked data.