More Challenging Jobs Associated with Better Cognition at Age 70

Challenging Occupations Associated with Better Cogntion Later in Life. Hero Images Hero Images/ Getty Images

Got a complex and challenging job? That may be good news for your brain, according to a recent study published in the journal Neurology involving more than 1,000 participants.

The Study

In the study, researchers noted the main occupation of each participant over his or her lifetime and identified it as belonging to one of three categories: complexity with data, complexity with things and complexity with people.

The participants' cognitive abilities were then tested at age 70 and compared with their occupations.

The Results 

 After compiling the results, the researchers reached the following conclusions:

  • Jobs that involved complexity with data or complexity with people both were correlated with higher overall cognitive performance at age 70.
  • Complexity with data jobs were also associated with increased processing speed on the tests.

Why Might These Results Occur?

First, it's not clear that one variable (occupation) caused the other variable (the performance on cognitive tests). The one is merely correlated with the other.

Second, these results do lend some credence to the idea of cognitive reserve- the concept of building up additional abilities to compensate for future potential cognitive decline. This is similar to over-training for a 5 kilometer race by running 10 kilometers so that your endurance and strength are highly developed for the race.

Third, this study also discussed the possibility that social interaction- which the job category of complexity with people likely relates to- benefits the cognitive functioning of those who engage in it. Some research has identified social interaction as being associated with a lower risk of dementia.

Related Reading


Neurology December 9, 2014 vol. 83 no. 24 2285-2291. Occupational complexity and lifetime cognitive abilities.

Continue Reading