People whose jobs require more complex work with other people, such as social workers and lawyers, or with data, like architects or graphic designers, may end up having longer-lasting memory and thinking abilities compared to people who do less complex work, according to research published in the November 19, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“These results suggest that more stimulating work environments may help people retain their thinking skills, and that this might be observed years after they have retired,” said study author Alan J. Gow, PhD, of Heriot-Watt University and the Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology in Edinburgh, Scotland. “Our findings have helped to identify the kinds of job demands that preserve memory and thinking later on.”
For the study 1,066 Scottish people with an average age of 70 had their memory and thinking abilities tested at the University of Edinburgh. The tests looked at memory, processing speed and general thinking ability. Researchers also gathered information about the jobs participants held.
The job titles were assigned scores for the complexity of work with people, data and things. For example, complex jobs might involve coordinating or synthesizing data, while less complex jobs might involve copying or comparing data. In terms of working with others, more complex roles might involve instructing, negotiating or mentoring, while less complex jobs might involve taking instructions or helping.
The analysis used levels of complexity according to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Examples of jobs that score highly for the complexity of work with people are: lawyer, social worker, surgeon, probation officer. Examples of jobs that have lower scores for complexity of work with people are: factory worker, bookbinder, painter, carpet layer.
Examples of jobs that score highly for the complexity of work with data are: architect, civil engineer, graphic designer or musician. Examples of jobs that have lower scores for complexity of work with data include: construction worker, telephone operator or food server.
Researchers also had IQ scores from tests taken when the participants were 11 years old.
The study found that participants who held jobs with higher levels of complexity with data and people, such as management and teaching, had better scores on memory and thinking tests. The results remained the same after considering IQ at age 11, years of education and the lack of resources in the environment the person lived in (based on information from the area in terms of crime and access to services, for example).
Overall, the effect of occupation was small, accounting for about 1 percent to 2 percent of the variance between people with jobs of high and low complexity, which is comparable to other factors such as the association between not smoking and better thinking skills in later life.
Researchers have debated whether a more stimulating environment may build up a person’s “cognitive reserve,” acting as a buffer allowing the brain to function in spite of damage, or whether people with higher thinking skills are those who are able to go into more challenging occupations. “These results actually provide evidence for both theories,” Gow said.
“Factoring in people’s IQ at age 11 explained about 50 percent of the variance in thinking abilities in later life, but it did not account for all of the difference. That is, while it is true that people who have higher cognitive abilities are more likely to get more complex jobs, there still seems to be a small advantage gained from these complex jobs for later thinking skills.”
The study was supported by Age UK, as part of a wider research program called the Disconnected Mind, with additional support from the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
To learn more about cognition, please visit www.aan.com/patients
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 28,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.
Rachel L. Seroka | American Academy of Neurology
WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences