Complex occupations help protect our brains from aging-related cognitive decline

Cognitive aging: Work helps our brain (AAAS):

A recent study shows that work plays an active role in keeping our brains healthy. “We have demonstrated the role of working activity on cognitive performance”. Professor Raffaella Rumiati says … “Many studies have been focused on the factors influencing our brain aging and differences in cognitive decline have been often observed in association with education or other related to quality of life. From our analysis it emerges that the type of work activity also contributes to the differences in normal and pathological cognitive aging”.

… Participants were assessed with a series of neuropsychological tests and subsequently divided into three types of profiles based on the results: subjects at risk of cognitive decline, subjects with mild decline and subjects with severe decline.

The tests were repeated twice a few years apart. Depending on whether they mantained or worsened their profile based on their initial performance, participants were classified as “resistant” or “declining”.

The results demonstrate benefits of cognitive mobilization promoted by lifelong learning and that social connection, ongoing sense of purpose and ability to function independently largely affect cognitive health and general well-being along the trajectories of aging.

The Study:

Protective factors for subjective cognitive decline individuals: trajectories and changes in a longitudinal study with Italian elderly (European Journal of Neurology). From the Abstract:

  • Background and purpose: Many different factors have been hypothesized to modulate cognition in an aging population according to their functioning at baseline.
  • Results: At baseline, all individuals showed education and occupation as the best predictors of performance, in addition to age. Furthermore, across assessments, the resistant had higher levels of education and occupation than the declining. In particular, the education and occupation predicted cognitive performance in all groups considered, from the subjective cognitive decline to the one with the most severely impaired participants.
  • Conclusions: This study highlights the role of working activity in protecting from cognitive decline across all fragile elderly groups and even more so the individuals who are at very high risk of decline.

The Study in Context:

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Complex occupations help protect our brains from aging-related cognitive decline