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

Ergonomics. 2010 Nov;53(11):1287-301. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2010.519125.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attention
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Problem Solving
  • Work / psychology*