For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Higher mental stimulation at work is associated with improved cognitive functioning in both young and older workers"

by Marquie, J C; Duarte, L Rico; Bessières, P; Dalm, C; Gentil, C; Ruidavets, J B (2010)


The study examined whether mental stimulation received in the workplace positively affects cognitive functioning and rate of cognitive change. Data taken from the VISAT (ageing, health and work) longitudinal study concerned 3237 workers who were seen three times (in 1996, 2001 and 2006) and who were aged between 32 and 62 years at baseline. Measures of cognitive stimulation both at work and outside work were available at baseline. Cognitive efficiency was assessed on the three occasions through episodic verbal memory, attention and processing speed tests. Greater cognitive stimulation (at work and outside work) was associated with higher levels of cognitive functioning and a more favourable change over the 10-year follow-up. These results were obtained after adjustment for age, education, sex and a variety of medical, physical and psychosocial confounders. The study thus supports the hypothesis that exposure to jobs that are mentally demanding and that offer learning opportunities increases the level of cognitive functioning and possibly attenuates age-related decline. STATEMENT OF RELEVANCE: The effect of occupational activity on cognitive functioning is under-researched. This paper reports results from a substantive longitudinal study, with findings indicating that exposure to jobs that are mentally demanding are beneficial in increasing levels of cognitive functioning and possibly attenuating age-related decline.

Key Passage

There is clearly still conflicting evidence as to whether engaging oneself in mentally stimulating activities is associated with higher cognitive functioning and predicts more favourable cognitive development in adulthood. Evidence is even scarcer, as stated above, when specifically considering the effects of occupational cognitive experiences. Having data on this issue, however, would be highly desirable in order to understand how a person’s job contributes to the development or alteration of cognitive efficiency and to formulate intervention strategies that minimise detrimental consequences of work organisation on the individual. Working life covers more than 40 years of adult life and represents a major source of cognitive experience in adulthood. It is argued that both its quantitative and qualitative importance in accounting for psychological development in a person’s later years has been underestimated in earlier work. (p.1288)


Cognitive Decline, Cognitive Development, Psychological Development, Personality, Stimulating Work, Engaging Work, Challenging Work


Psychological Centrality of Work

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