Com­plex jobs ‘may pro­tect mem­ory’

Lesotho Times - - Scrutator -

LONDON — Peo­ple with men­tally tax­ing jobs, in­clud­ing lawyers and graphic de­sign­ers, may end up hav­ing bet­ter mem­ory in old age, re­search sug­gests.

A study of more than 1 000 Scot­tish 70-year-olds found that those who had had com­plex jobs scored bet­ter on mem­ory and think­ing tests.

One the­ory is a more stim­u­lat­ing en­vi­ron­ment helps build up a “cog­ni­tive re­serve” to help buf­fer the brain against age-re­lated de­cline,

The re­search was re­ported in Neu­rol­ogy. The team, from He­ri­otWatt Univer­sity, in Ed­in­burgh, is now plan­ning more work to look at how life­style and work in­ter­act to af­fect mem­ory loss.

Those tak­ing part in the study took tests de­signed to as­sess mem­ory, pro­cess­ing speed and gen­eral think­ing abil­ity, as well as filling in a ques­tion­naire about their work­ing life.

The anal­y­sis showed that those whose jobs had re­quired com­plex skills in deal­ing with data or peo­ple, such as man­age­ment and teach­ing, had bet­ter scores on mem­ory and think­ing tests than those who had done less men­tally in­tense jobs such as fac­tory work­ers, book­binders, or car­pet lay­ers.

Pro­tec­tive ef­fect

To rule out that those with more com­plex jobs may have had higher think­ing abil­i­ties in the first place, the re­searchers looked at scores they had achieved in the Scot­tish Men­tal Survey in 1947, when they were 11.

They found that the ben­e­fit was re­duced, but there was still an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween hav­ing a men­tally stim­u­lat­ing job, such as those in­clud­ing ne­go­ti­a­tion, men­tor­ing or syn­the­sis of data, and bet­ter cog­ni­tive abil­ity years after re­tire­ment.

Study leader Dr Alan Gow said: “Our find­ings have helped to iden­tify the kinds of job de­mands that pre­serve mem­ory and think­ing later on.”

He added it was rare for th­ese sorts of stud­ies to be able to ac­count for prior abil­ity.

“Fac­tor­ing in peo­ple’s IQ at age 11 ex­plained about 50% 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.”

Brain changes

While the study did not look at biological rea­sons for the pro­tec­tive ef­fect of cer­tain jobs, po­ten­tial ex­pla­na­tions in­clude that struc­tural changes within the brain mean less dam­age is ac­cu­mu­lated over time.

Dr Si­mon Ri­d­ley, head of re­search at Alzheimer’s Re­search UK, said the study added to the grow­ing ev­i­dence about fac­tors that af­fect brain health as we aged.

“Keep­ing the brain ac­tive through­out life could be help­ful and dif­fer­ent types of work may play a role.

“How­ever, it’s im­por­tant to note that this study points to a small and sub­tle as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween oc­cu­pa­tion and later-life cog­ni­tion rather than of­fer­ing proof that peo­ple’s oc­cu­pa­tion has a di­rect in­flu­ence.” — BBC

Men­tally tax­ing jobs like be­ing a lawyer may re­sult in bet­ter mem­ory in old age, re­search sug­gests.

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