A mentally demanding job may stress you out today but can provide important benefits after you retire, according to a new study.
"Based on data spanning 18 years, our study suggests that certain kinds of challenging jobs have the potential to enhance and protect workers' mental functioning in later life," said Gwenith Fisher, a faculty associate at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and assistant professor of psychology at Colorado State University.
The research analyzed data on 4,182 participants in the U-M Health and Retirement Study, which surveys a representative sample of more than 20,000 older Americans every two years.
Participants were interviewed about eight times between 1992 and 2010, starting when they were between the ages of 51 and 61. They worked in a wide variety of jobs and had been doing the same type of work for more than 25 years, on average, before they retired.
Fisher and colleagues examined the mental requirements of each job that participants reported having during that period. These requirements included analyzing data, developing objectives and strategies, making decisions, solving problems, evaluating information and thinking creatively.
They also assessed participants' mental functioning, using standard tests of episodic memory and mental status. The tests included recalling a list of 10 nouns immediately after seeing it and also after a time delay, and counting backwards from 100 by sevens.
In addition, the researchers controlled for participants' health, symptoms of depression, economic status and demographic characteristics, including years of education.
They found that people who had worked in jobs with greater mental demands were more likely to have better memories before they retired and more likely to have slower declines in memory after retiring than people who had worked in jobs with fewer mental demands.
The differences at the time of retirement were not large, but they grew over time.
"These results suggest that working in an occupation that requires a variety of mental processes may be beneficial to employees," said Jessica Faul, an ISR assistant research scientist.
"It's likely that being exposed to new experiences or more mentally complex job duties may benefit not only newer workers but more seasoned employees as well," she said. "Employers should strive to increase mental engagement at work and, if possible, outside of work as well, by emphasizing life-long learning activities."
The study did not establish causal relations between mental work demands and cognitive change after retirement, the researchers said, so it could be the case that people with higher levels of mental functioning picked jobs with more mental demands. But the study did control for formal education and income.
"What people do outside of work could also be a factor," Fisher said. "Some people may be very active in hobbies and other activities that are mentally stimulating and demanding, while others are not."
Fisher's research is published this month in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. The U-M Health and Retirement Study is primarily funded by the National Institute on Aging with additional funding provided by the Social Security Administration.
Established in 1949, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research is the world's largest academic social science survey and research organization, and a world leader in developing and applying social science methodology and in educating researchers and students from around the world. Visit http://home.isr.umich.edu.
Diane Swanbrow | EurekAlert!
Study suggests new way of preventing diabetes-associated blindness
26.05.2015 | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Memories Influence Choice of Food
22.05.2015 | Universität Basel
The only professorship in Germany to date, one master's programme, one laboratory with worldwide unique equipment and the corresponding research results: The University of Würzburg is leading in the field of biofabrication.
Paul Dalton is presently the only professor of biofabrication in Germany. About a year ago, the Australian researcher relocated to the Würzburg department for...
Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.
Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...
Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services
To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...
The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...
On Tuesday, 19 May 2015 the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its home port in Bremerhaven, setting a course for the Arctic. Led by Dr Ilka Peeken from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) a team of 53 researchers from 11 countries will investigate the effects of climate change in the Arctic, from the surface ice floes down to the seafloor.
RV Polarstern will enter the sea-ice zone north of Spitsbergen. Covering two shallow regions on their way to deeper waters, the scientists on board will focus...
20.05.2015 | Event News
18.05.2015 | Event News
12.05.2015 | Event News
27.05.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.05.2015 | Health and Medicine
27.05.2015 | Physics and Astronomy