Job Choice Impacts Senior Brain Health

              Can thinking critically at a job help keep your brain sharp as you age?  New research from the American Academy of Neurology finds that the right amount of cognitive stimulation from your employment can reduce the risk of cognitive declines later in life.

                The study gathered data from over seven thousand workers across over three-hundred jobs, measuring different types of cognitive engagement including routine manual work, analytical, and non-analytical tasks.  Specifically, the researchers were interested in different types of work that required repetition and speed like factory tasks versus tasks related to accuracy like accounting.  They also gathered information related to inter-personal tasks, and separated most of these types of jobs from cognitive jobs that were different all around, like computer programing.

                Based on the types of cognitive enrichment that their jobs provided, study participants were divided into four groups.  When the participants reached the age of 70, they took cognitive assessments with memory and thinking tests.  In the group with the lowest cognitive demand (which was found to be jobs like custodians and mail carriers), 42% of the participants were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment after age 70.  In the group with the highest cognitive demands (which was found to be teaching), only 27% were found to have mild cognitive impairment after age 70.

                The results showed that professions with the lowest cognitive demand could increase risk of cognitive decline by up to 66% later in life.  An interesting part of this study didn’t account for what activities the workers practiced outside of their jobs, such as those who engaged in cognitive exercises while aging like crossword puzzles.  Still, it shows that what we’re doing with the bulk of our time while we are young and not focused on our cognitive ability adds up later down the road, reminding us to promote mental flexibility and cognitive enrichment all along the way.


Further Reading

Trine H. Edwin, Asta K. Håberg, Ekaterina Zotcheva, et al. Trajectories of Occupational Cognitive Demands and Risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia in Later Life. Neurology, 2024; 102 (9) DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000209353

Reviews (1 comment)

  • Eva On

    I’m writing to question an example in this article. You used “custodian” as an example of a job that doesn’t use much cognitive skills.
    I don’t know if that word was chosen by the writer or whether it was an example of a job from the actual study.
    Custodians are solving problems all day long!
    Especially if responsible for an older building, things break down and fall apart, and there are not always easy ways to fix it … like old plumbing.

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