Demanding Jobs and the Brain

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Story Updated: Apr 14, 2014

People whose jobs are more mentally demanding can look forward to healthier brains in retirement, new research suggests.

The "use it or lose it" finding published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology is based on the experience of nearly 4200 now-retired men and women, representing a broad range of past employment. Between 1992 and 2010 when they were between 51 and 61 years old all participants were repeatedly surveyed. On average each had stuck with his or her particular line of work for more than 26 years pre-retirement.

Jobs were ranked in terms of how much problem-solving, decision-making, analyzing, and creative-thinking each required. Rankings were then stacked up against mental health assessments conducted both pre- and post-retirement. The result? More demanding work translated into better memory retention before retirement and a slower rate of memory loss after retirement. Still, the study did not establish a direct cause and effect between job type and memory. And the study team suggested that what one does outside of work may be a factor.

I'm Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV with the news doctors are reading health news that matters to you.

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