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Reducing Cognitive Decline in Later Life through Thought-Provoking Activities

Engaging in intellectually stimulating work may decrease the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in older individuals. A study conducted by Oslo University Hospital researchers analyzed over 7,000 individuals across 305 occupations in Norway, linking higher cognitive job demands from one’s 30s to 60s with a reduced incidence of MCI after the age of 70.

Key Points:

  1. The study evaluated cognitive job demands and their impact on individuals aged 70 and above.
  2. Individuals in high cognitive demand roles exhibited a lower rate of MCI (27%) compared to those in low demand positions (42%).
  3. The research suggests that mentally challenging work can act as a protective factor against cognitive decline in later life, warranting further investigation into specific beneficial tasks.

Source: AAN

A recent study published in Neurology on April 17, 2024, suggests that individuals engaged in cognitively demanding work may experience reduced memory and cognitive issues later in life. While the study does not establish a causal link between stimulating work and preventing MCI, it highlights an association.

Dr. Trine Holt Edwin from Oslo University Hospital in Norway stated, “Cognitive stimulation at work during various life stages—from one’s 30s to 60s—was associated with a decreased risk of MCI after the age of 70.”

The research categorized jobs based on task nature—routine manual, routine cognitive, non-routine analytical, and non-routine interpersonal. Occupations with higher cognitive demands, such as teaching, exhibited lower MCI rates compared to less demanding roles like mail carrying. Even after adjusting for demographic and lifestyle factors, individuals in the least cognitively demanding jobs faced a 66% higher risk of MCI.

The study assessed cognitive stimulation levels in different job roles, including routine manual, routine cognitive, non-routine analytical, and non-routine interpersonal tasks. Jobs with non-routine analytical and cognitive demands, such as public relations and computer programming, showed positive effects on cognitive health.

Notably, the research emphasized the importance of education and engaging in intellectually challenging work throughout one’s career to mitigate cognitive decline in older age. Further studies are necessary to pinpoint specific occupationally beneficial tasks for maintaining cognitive abilities.

Funding: National Institutes of Health supported this study.

Author: Source: Contact: Natalie Conrad – AAN
Image: Neuroscience News

Original Research: The findings will be featured in Neurology.