Mentally stimulating work plays key role in staving off dementia, study finds

People in routine and repetitive jobs found to have 31% greater risk of disease in later life, and 66% higher risk of mild cognitive problems

THE GUARDIAN [UK] – If work is a constant flurry of mind-straining challenges, bursts of creativity and delicate negotiations to keep the troops happy, consider yourself lucky.

Researchers have found that the more people use their brains at work, the better they seem to be protected against thinking and memory problems that come with older age.

In a study of more than 7,000 Norwegians in 305 occupations, those who held the least mentally demanding jobs had a 66% greater risk of mild cognitive impairment, and a 31% greater risk of dementia, after the age of 70 compared with those in the most mentally taxing roles.

“It really shows how important work is,” said Dr Trine Edwin, a geriatrician and postdoctoral fellow at Oslo university hospital. “It’s important to go to work and use your brain, and to use your brain to learn new things.”

Edwin and her colleagues examined the cognitive complexity of various jobs based on the amount of routine manual and mental work, and the degree of analytical and interpersonal tasks, they involved.

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Most people worked jobs with similar degrees of cognitive demands throughout their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, meaning that those who started work in less mentally stimulating jobs tended to remain in them, as did those who took on cognitively challenging positions from the off.

After the age of 70, the volunteers took part in standard memory and thinking tests and were classified as having either no cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Of those who had worked in the least cognitively challenging jobs, 42% were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, compared with only 27% who had worked in the most cognitively stimulating roles.

Among the jobs ranked as most stimulating were teachers and university lecturers, according to the study, in Neurology. Some of the least cognitively demanding jobs were those that involved repetitive manual tasks, such as road work …


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