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

Our principal finding was that a higher complexity of work with people in the main lifetime occupation was associated with a reduced risk of AD and all types of dementia combined later in life, independent of age, gender, and level of education. The effect was sustained when we also controlled complexity of work with data and things, and when we analyzed data in a cotwin-control design that partially accounted for unmeasured genetic and familial factors shared by twins. In addition, a higher complexity of work with things was associated with a marginal increase in risk of dementia in case-control analyses; furthermore, in cotwin-control analyses, twins with a higher complexity of work with data were at a lower risk of AD than their cotwins. (p.256)


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


Psychological Centrality of Work

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