For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Complexity of work and risk of Alzheimer's disease: a population-based study of Swedish twins"

by Andel, Ross; Crowe, Michael; Pedersen, Nancy L; Mortimer, James; Crimmins, Eileen; Johansson, Boo; Gatz, Margaret (2005)


We examined the association between risk of dementia or Alzheimer's disease (AD) and occupation by using measures of complexity of work with data, people, and things. The study included 10,079 members of the population-based Swedish Twin Registry who were participants in the HARMONY study. We diagnosed dementia by means of a two-stage procedure--cognitive impairment screening followed by full clinical evaluation. We analyzed data with case-control and cotwin control designs. The cotwin control design provides control over genetic and familial factors. In the case-control study, controlling for age, gender, and level of education, we found that more complex work with people was associated with reduced risk of AD. Greater complexity of work with people and data was protective in twin pairs discordant for AD. Findings suggest that greater complexity of work, and particularly complex work with people, may reduce the risk of AD.

Key Passage

Using data from a population-based twin registry, we explored the association between occupation and risk for all types of dementia and for AD only. We coded each occupation to reflect three types of intellectual demands at work—complexity of work with data, with people, and with things. These measures, called ‘‘worker functions,’’ have been used as basic indicators of complexity (Miller, Treiman, Cain, & Roos, 1980). We expected that high complexity of work, particularly on the dimensions of work with data and people, would be associated with reduced risk of dementia and AD. We expected to find less relevance of complexity of work with things to dementia and AD, because this complexity dimension appears to provide a relatively poor representation of general complexity of work (Kohn & Schooler, 1983; Schooler et al., 1999) and is characterized by lower reliability of measurement (Miller et al.). (p.252)


Ageing, Older Workers, Retirement, Complex Work, Mental Development, Psychological Functioning, Dementia, Cognitive Impairments


Psychological Centrality of Work

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