For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Is complexity of work associated with risk of dementia? The Canadian Study of Health And Aging"

by Kröger, Edeltraut; Andel, Ross; Lindsay, Joan; Benounissa, Zohra; Verreault, René; Laurin, Danielle (2008)


The authors evaluated the association of complexity of work with data, people, and things with the incidence of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and vascular dementia in the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, while adjusting for work-related physical activity. The Canadian Study of Health and Aging is a 10-year population study, from 1991 to 2001, of a representative sample of persons aged 65 years or older. Lifetime job history allowed application of complexity scores and classification of work-related physical activity. Analyses included 3,557 subjects, of whom 400 were incident dementia cases, including 299 with Alzheimer's disease and 93 with vascular dementia. In fully adjusted Cox regression models, high complexity of work with people or things reduced risk of dementia (hazard ratios were 0.66 (95% confidence interval: 0.44, 0.98) and 0.72 (95% confidence interval: 0.52, 0.99), respectively) but not Alzheimer's disease. For vascular dementia, hazard ratios were 0.36 (95% confidence interval: 0.15, 0.90) for high complexity of work with people and 0.50 (95% confidence interval: 0.25, 1.00) for high complexity of work with things. Subgroup analyses according to median duration (23 years) of principal occupation showed that associations with complexity varied according to duration of employment. High complexity of work appears to be associated with risk of dementia, but effects may vary according to subtype.

Key Passage

Occupations with high mental demands may represent a form of mental exercise that supports brain function in older adulthood, as expressed by the ‘‘use it or lose it’’ hypothesis (5, 6), and may thus affect cognitive performance in older adults. People spend a considerable part of their adult life in their occupation, making intellectual stimulation inherent to occupation of particular interest. Complex work environments that reward cognitive effort and require decision making may motivate individuals to continue to develop their intellectual capacities (15, 16). (p.820)


Dementia, Cognitive Decline, Cognitive Function, Metal Development, Stress, Work Stress, Health Risk


Psychological Centrality of Work

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