WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUN. 26, 2014
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Demanding Jobs Can Delay Dementia

People with mentally challenging jobs involving regular problem solving, critical thinking and creativity tend to stay mentally sharper while on the job and in later life. Keeping your brain active throughout your lifetime, both when working and when enjoying stimulating hobbies, can delay mental decline by as much as nine years.

The findings emerged from a study of 2,000 people. Dr Prashanthi Vemuri, the lead researcher of the study said: “We were focused on seeing if lifetime intellectual enrichment, whether it's higher education, occupation and doing more cognitive activities later in life might help someone, and we found that, yes, lifetime intellectual enrichment does help in delaying the onset of cognitive impairment. And the all round message from the study was that it could be used as a successful preventative intervention in order to reduce the impending dementia epidemic”.

Other studies have also proved the correlation between mentally challenging jobs and higher levels of cognitive functioning. For example, Gwenith G. Fisher’s study on 4,182 workers showed that adults who worked in jobs with higher mental demands were more likely to demonstrate better memory before retirement and a slower decline in memory post-retirement than those who worked in less mentally demanding occupations.

These results suggest that choosing an occupation involving different mental processes or re-designing less cognitively complex jobs to be more cognitively complex may benefit employees.  

Stimulating Activities and Education are Beneficial for the Brain

Dr Vemuri found that high engagement in cognitively stimulating activities, like reading books and magazines, using a computer regularly, playing games or music, engaging in artistic, craft and group activities during your mid and late life delay the onset of dementia.

On the other hand, lifelong learning and an intellectually enriching job can halt cognitive decline and dementia for up to three years. Those who are on a four-year college degree and then pursue a professional specialty, like being a doctor or a computer scientist, are at a lower risk of experiencing dementia in the long run.

It’s Never too Late…

Dr Sarah Sedghi said fortunately "it isn't too late if your job is not considered that intellectually demanding, or you've never really had much of an interest in reading or playing video games". No matter what you did in your prior life, you can start engaging in highly stimulating activities such as reading books or social activities at least three times a week as this will help stave off mental decline.

The findings of both studies could prove crucial, as it is expected that the number of people aged 65 and over will double between 2010 and 2050. Overall, mentally demanding jobs as well as a good education could help offset dementia later in life. Also, keeping your brain active by doing stimulating activities such as reading books and having an active social life were been found to improve mental function and memory.  

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