Regular Work Increases the Incidence of Dementia and Cognitive Impairment, According to a Research

A recent study indicated that putting in a lot of mental effort at work may benefit you in more ways than just advancing your career. It may also shield your cognitive function and help stave off dementia when you become older.

The study found that, compared to working in an environment with high cognitive and interpersonal demands, having a routine job with little mental stimulation during your 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s was associated with a 66% higher risk of mild cognitive impairment and a 37% greater risk of dementia after the age of 70.

Lead author Dr. Trine Edwin of Oslo University Hospital in Norway said, “Our results show the value of having an occupation that requires more complex thinking as a way to maintain memory and thinking in old age,”  “The workplace is really important in promoting cognitive health.” Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of research at the Institute for Mental Health.

Education did partially offset the negative effects of a monotonous work, according to Edwin. For example, going to college decreased the effects of a repetitive profession by roughly 60% but did not totally eliminate the danger.

“Staying actively engaged in life, maintaining a sense of purpose, learning new things and remaining socially active are powerful tools to protect against cognitive decline as we age,” stated in an email Dr. Richard Isaacson, the director of research at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Florida.

Isaacson, who was not involved in the new study, said, “Similarly, this study shows that being cognitively engaged at work can also have profound benefits in our fight against dementia.”

“Just like we can use physical exercise to grow and maintain our muscles, exercising our brain through more engaging work assignments and ongoing collegial interactions seems to also help fend off dementia.”

Regular Tasks Frequently Involve Repetition.

The study, which was released on Wednesday in the American Academy of Neurology journal Neurology, examined work and health data for 7,000 Norwegians who were tracked from their 30s to their 60s retirement.

Edwin stated, “Many other studies on this topic have just looked at the most recent jobs that people have,”  “but due to the national database we have in Norway we were able to follow people over much of their lifetimes.”

“Most people in routine jobs in our sample included housekeepers, custodians, construction workers and mail carriers,”  Edwin stated.

Even though repetitive work were occasionally necessary, more cognitively demanding employment were not based on routine chores. Daily responsibilities would often involve problem-solving, information analysis, creative thinking, and communicating concepts and details to others. These kinds of mentally demanding professions also call for interpersonal abilities like mentoring or inspiring others.

“There were lawyers, doctors, accountants, technical engineers and people in public service in this group, but the most common occupation was teaching,” Edwin stated. “Teachers have a lot of interaction with students and parents and have to explain and analyze information. It’s not so routine-oriented.”

“You lose it if you don’t use it.”

For the whole of their working lives, many research participants had positions with the same level of complexity. One of the study’s strengths, according to Edwin, was its stability, which allowed researchers to examine the effects of different employment types across time. But variations in responsibilities within a particular job category were not taken into consideration by the study.

“As they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it. This is similarly true for cognitive engagement throughout the lifespan,” according to Isaacson.

 he continued. “While I’d speculate that people at risk for Alzheimer’s would be well served by taking advantage of professional advancement opportunities, learning new job tasks, and refining their skills at work over a period of time, further studies will help clarify which specific activities have the most brain healthy benefits,”

He suggested leading a brain-healthy lifestyle that includes eating a Mediterranean-style diet, cutting back on alcohol and quitting smoking, monitoring vascular risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, routinely diagnosing and treating hearing and vision loss, and “getting adequate sleep and managing stress can help people slam the breaks on cognitive decline.”

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