Study: Work in adulthood seen to significantly delay memory decline after age 60, supporting the Cognitive Reserve theory
Slower memory loss for working women (MedPage today): Working women had slower memory decline as they got older than women who had not worked outside the home, according to a longitudinal study. Non-working mothers...

Slower memory loss for working women (MedPage today):

Working women had slower memory decline as they got older than women who had not worked outside the home, according to a longitudinal study.

Non-working mothers are twice as likely to develop memory impairment at age 70 as married working mothers, reported Elizabeth Rose Mayeda, PhD, MPH, of UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in Los Angeles, and its co-authors.

… “While there is no debate that running a home and family can be a complex, full-time job, our study suggests that paid work may offer some protection in cases of memory loss - possibly due to cognitive stimulation, social engagement, or financial security, ”she added.

The study had several limitations, the researchers said. Non-marital partnerships were not included in the analysis. The researchers relied on retrospective reports on employment, marriage and parenthood. They could not distinguish between full-time and part-time employment and did not take into account volunteer work. Memory performance was assessed with a brief assessment of word recall and other cognitive domains were not examined.

The study:

Association of work-family experience with memory decline in mid- and late-life in American women (Neurology). From the summary:

  • Goal: To test the hypothesis that patterns of employment, marriage, and lifelong child rearing influence the rate of memory decline in women later in life, we examined the relationship between work-family experiences between 16 and 50 and the decline in memory after 55 in United States women.
  • Methods: Participants were women aged 55 and over in the Health and Retirement Study. Participants declared employment, marital and parental status between 16 and 50 years old. Sequential analysis was used to group together women with similar work and family life histories; we identified 5 profiles characterized by similar moments and transitions in the combined status of work, marital and parental. Memory performance was assessed every two years from 1995 to 2016. We estimated associations between work-family profiles and memory decline later in life with linear mixed-effects models adjusted for effects. of practice, age of reference, race / ethnicity, region of birth, socio-economic status of childhood and level of education.
  • Results: There were 6,189 study participants… Between ages 55 and 60, memory scores were similar in work-family profiles. After age 60, the average rate of memory loss was 50% higher among women whose work-family profile did not include paid work after childbearing, compared to those who worked.
  • Conclusions: Women who worked for wages in early adulthood and in their forties experienced slower rates of memory decline later in life, regardless of their marital and parental status, suggesting that participation in the paid workforce can protect against memory decline later in life.

The study in context:


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