By: Debra Cassens Weiss
A new study has found a link between challenging occupations and cognitive abilities as people grow older. The University of Edinburgh study found that people whose jobs required complex work with data or people scored higher on cognitive ability at age 70 than people in other professions, the FiveThirtyEight blog reports.
Among the professions that scored high for working with data or people were judges and lawyers.
Complex work with data included synthesizing, analyzing and coordinating and comparing. Complex work with people included mentoring, negotiating, instructing and supervising.
Test subjects who had jobs involving more complex work with things, on the other hand, tended to have lower cognitive abilities at 70. Complex work with things included setting up, precision working, and operating/controlling.
The study, published in Neurology, used as subjects people who had been born in 1937 and participated in cognitive testing in 1947. When researchers controlled for childhood cognitive ability of the test subjects, the link between cognitive ability and complex jobs remained, though it was weaker, FiveThirtyEight says.
The theory is that stimulating environments build “cognitive reserves” that help protect the brain from the effects of aging.