Recruiting Blog

Study: Stimulating Jobs Yield Better Brain Functions Later In Life

Alan J Gow

Working at a satisfying job may provide you a lot more than just good feeling. It may also help your brain’s health and well being especially later in life. That’s what researchers from the University of Edinburgh recently found in a study published in the journal Neurology. It’s author Alan Gow, an assistant professor of psychology at Heriot-Watt University and the Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, discovered that jobs requiring intellectually challenging tasks may help preserve thinking skills and memory even as workers age.

The study evaluated more than 1,000 Scottish workers and compared their IQ scores at age 11 with their memory and reasoning scores at age 70. They found that those who had mentally stimulating jobs appeared to retain sharper thinking, even many years after retirement!

During the research, Gow’s scientists found a relationship between the complexity of one’s job and how they scored later in life on a range of cognitive ability measures with those in more complex jobs scoring higher. Complexity was measured several ways. One metric was complex data jobs, which involved coordinating or synthesizing data. This was contrasted by less complex data jobs that only involved comparing or copying data. Another metric of job complexity was the level of instructing, negotiating or mentoring others. Conversely, less complex roles would only involve taking instructions.

Anecdotally, I have found the results of this study to be true both within my own family and among the candidates I place as a technical recruiter.

Personally, my father who is 89 years continues to work every day, performing meaningful tasks, as a key board member of an association that he values. This has resulted in his brain function and other cognitive skills being very pronounced. Conversely, my mother at age 86 has not been very mentally active since retiring over 20 years ago. Unfortunately, this has probably contributed to her advanced cases of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Also, among the R&D, scientific, engineering, technical, IT and manufacturing candidates we recruit at our executive recruiting firm this also rings true. Additionally, I have uncovered similar findings during my conversations with other engineering recruitment agencies, engineering recruiting firms, scientific recruitment agencies, scientific recruiters, technical recruitment agencies, technical recruiters and executive recruitment agencies. Namely, when their candidate’s progress beyond working age, they tend to remain very sharp mentally if they had worked in a job that was very satisfying to them and very complex.

Please go to http://www.neurology.org/content/83/24/2285 for more details on this groundbreaking study.

What are your findings?


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