Midlife work-related stress is associated with late-life cognition

J Neurol. 2017 Sep;264(9):1996-2002. doi: 10.1007/s00415-017-8571-3. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


To investigate the associations between midlife work-related stress and late-life cognition in individuals without dementia from the general population. The Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) study population (n = 2000) was randomly selected from independent Finnish population-based surveys (baseline mean age 50 years). Participants underwent two re-examinations in late life (mean age 71 and 78 years, respectively). 1511 subjects participated in at least one re-examination (mean total follow-up 25 years). Work-related stress was measured using two questions on work demands administered in midlife. Multiple cognitive domains were assessed. Analyses were adjusted for several potential confounders. Higher levels of midlife work-related stress were associated with poorer performance on global cognition [β-coefficient, -0.02; 95% confidence interval (CI), -0.05 to -0.00], and processing speed [β -0.03, CI -0.05 to -0.01]. Results remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders. Work-related stress was not significantly associated with episodic memory, executive functioning, verbal fluency or manual dexterity. This study shows that global cognition and processing speed may be particularly susceptible to the effects of midlife work-related stress.

Keywords: Cognition; Job demands; Job strain; Midlife risk factors; Stress; Work-related stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Occupational Stress / complications*
  • Occupational Stress / epidemiology
  • Occupational Stress / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors