A demanding job might be good for your brain

A demanding job might be good for your brain

Having a mentally demanding job can be a daily grind, but it could also lead to long-term health benefits, according to a recent study.

The research showed that professionals whose jobs require more speaking, developing strategies, conflict resolution and managerial tasks may experience better protection against memory and thinking decline in old age. The findings were published in Neurology, the official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Our study is important because it suggests that the type of work you do throughout your career may have even more significance on your brain health than your education does,” said Francisca S. Then, study author from the University of Leipzig in Germany, in a news release.

The study examined 1,054 people over the age of 75. Each individual was evaluated on their memory and thinking skills at work, and was monitored every eight years. Participants were evaluated on their work responsibilities, with researchers categorizing tasks into three groups – executive, verbal and fluid – to better understand their level of workload.

Examples of executive tasks included scheduling work and activities, developing strategies, and resolving conflicts. Verbal tasks included evaluating and interpreting information. Fluid tasks were considered to be those which included selective attention and data analysis.

The Mini-Mental State Examination was also administered to help understand workers memory and thinking ability.

Researchers found that seniors 75 and older had a rate of cognitive decline far less in those with a mentally demanding professional life.

“The results of this interesting study suggest that engaging in challenging cognitive tasks is stimulating to the brain,” says Dr. Andrew Gordon, neurologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill.

Dr. Gordon also says working longer and into old age could also be beneficial.

“Taken as a whole, there is a growing body of evidence that reading, playing and listening to music, eating healthier, physical exercise and challenging oneself with higher cognitive tasks may help preserve cognitive function in older adults,” he says. “Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are unfortunately difficult to treat with medication and pharmacologic options are limited. The prospect of preventing these disorders with change in lifestyle is good news.”

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Comments

2 Comments

  1. Margaret Ring Gillock June 12, 2015 at 12:44 pm · Reply

    Stress shortens life span and this study shows that holding a demanding job increases cognitive function. Are they both true? Please explain!

    • A demanding job that requires you to use a variety of skills isn’t the same as a stressful job. A stressful job is one that piles deadlines and workload on you that are more than you (or anyone) can reasonably handle in the given time but allows you no relief or assistance, that has an unfriendly or hostile work environment, or that includes a boss and/or colleagues who mistreat, undermine, disrespect or constantly underestimate you. You can have a demanding job in a relatively stress-free environment where you have supportive managers and colleagues and all the resources you need to do the job, or — if you’re really unlucky — a demanding job in a very stressful environment where everything is stacked against you and the company may even be considering layoffs, so you’re also worried about losing a job you hate in a work environment that’s slowly killing you (a guaranteed recipe for disaster, both healthwise and jobwise).

      Does that clarify things for you?

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health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.