Could your job increase your risk of dementia? A study says it might.

An active mind at work can lead to better cognitive outcomes down the road

Have you ever considered the ways that your job is affecting your cognitive health

A new study published in Neurology explored just that. Researchers learned that people who have cognitively stimulating jobs through middle age are less likely to show cognitive impairments or develop dementia in their 70s. 

“This study shows the importance of education and a cognitively stimulating work life for cognitive health in older age,” said researcher Trine Holt Edwin. 

The importance of cognitive stimulation

For the study, the researchers collected data from the Norwegian Administrative Registry and the Occupational Information Network database. 

They used this information to determine the intensity of the routine tasks associated with over 300 jobs. For the purposes of the study, the more routine the tasks were ranked, the less cognitively demanding the job. 

After determining the task intensity, the researchers then consulted the HUNT4 70+ study. This had accounts of participants over the age of 70 who had developed cognitive impairments or dementia. 

Ultimately, the researchers identified a trend between jobs that were cognitively stimulating and dementia risk. Participants with jobs that required little mental stimulation had a 66% higher risk of developing mild cognitive impairments and a 37% higher risk of developing dementia. 

Tracking 'job intensity'

The study tracked participants’ job intensity from when they were as young as 30 through their 60s, and their dementia risk was assessed when they reached their 70s. While the researchers explained that there is no direct cause and effect between a job’s mental stimulation and consumers developing dementia, the association calls for further research. 

“Overall, our study demonstrates that high occupational cognitive demands are related to lower risks of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in later life,” said researcher Vegard Skirbekk, Ph.D.

“We recommend the commissioning of further research to validate these findings to pinpoint the specific occupational cognitive demands that are most advantageous for maintaining cognitive health in old age.” 

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