27 March 2014

Use your head!

Strenuous mental work helps to stay smart in retirement

Kirill Stasevich, Compulenta

Work that requires mental effort may be fraught with frequent stress, but in the future it will bring you good dividends. According to researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Colorado (both in the USA), after retirement after such labors, your mind and psyche will remain healthy longer.

Gwenith Fisher and her colleagues analyzed data collected during a large-scale research project: several thousand elderly people aged 51 to 61 years regularly answered questions about their own health from 1992 to 2010 and underwent various psychological tests. For their analysis, the scientists selected those who, firstly, worked in a variety of jobs, and secondly, worked on average for less than 25 years before retiring.

In terms of mental health and mental acuity, scientists were primarily interested in the state of memory (subjects were asked, for example, to recall a sequence of numbers or letters that they had been shown before), susceptibility to bouts of depression, the ability to analyze information, make decisions, develop an action plan, etc. At the same time, of course, the socio-economic situation of a person, education and family affairs were taken into account. And all this was then compared with what these people were doing before retirement.

It turned out that if a person was required to make significant mental efforts at work, then his memory aged noticeably slower and his mental abilities slowly deteriorated. At the time of retirement, the difference between "more intelligent" and "less intelligent" workers was almost invisible, but over time it became more pronounced (the study, recall, lasted 18 years).

From the point of view of common sense, there is nothing surprising here: a hard-working brain retains its shape due to "training". On the other hand, the same common sense suggests that strenuous efforts can wear out the body and accelerate aging. So scientific research is just what is needed to understand which of the "common sense" is correct. Not all people, of course, can boast of such a position in which intense mental activity is required of them, but at least in "non-stressed" areas, you can try to complicate your brain's life at least a little.

However, the researchers themselves say that they only noticed a statistical interdependence between one and the other, and whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship is still unknown. After all, it may be that people with a stronger brain, more mentally capable, just initially come to mentally stressful positions. However, scientists still took into account both the education they received and the level of income, so perhaps different starting conditions in the sense of initial mental differences had nothing to do with it.

The results of the study are published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology (Fisher et al., Mental Work Demands, Retirement, and Longitudinal Trajectories of Cognitive Functioning).

Prepared based on the materials of the University of Michigan:
Mentally challenging jobs may keep your mind sharp long after retirement.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru27.03.2014

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