Workplace Exposures and Cognitive Function During Adulthood: Evidence From National Survey of Midlife Development and the O*NET

J Occup Environ Med. 2016 Jun;58(6):535-41. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000727.


Objective: Expand understanding of the role of selected workplace exposures (ie, occupational complexity, conflict in the workplace, pace of work, and physical hazards) in adults' cognitive function.

Methods: Cross-sectional data (n = 1991) from the second wave of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study; restricted to participants who completed telephone-based cognitive assessments of episodic memory, executive functioning, and self-perceived memory. Occupational exposure data were harvested from the ONET Release 6.0.

Results: Greater complexity was associated with better self-perceived memory among women and men, and better episodic memory and executive functioning among women. Greater physical hazards were independently associated with poorer episodic memory and executive functioning.

Conclusions: Objective assessments of physical and psychosocial exposures in the workplace are independently associated with cognitive outcomes in adulthood, with psychosocial exposures being particularly pronounced among women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workplace*