New research suggests that individuals working in physically demanding jobs may be at a greater risk of developing dementia and cognitive impairment. The study, conducted by the Norwegian National Centre of Ageing and Health, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and the Butler Columbia Aging Center, examined the link between occupational physical activity and the risk of developing dementia and mild cognitive impairment later in life.
The study found that people engaged in physically exhausting jobs for long periods of time had a 15.5% higher risk of dementia or cognitive impairment. Examples of physically demanding jobs include salespeople, nursing assistants, care assistants, crop farmers, and animal producers. The researchers defined physically demanding jobs as those that require significant use of the arms and legs, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
Possible explanations for the increased risk include the detrimental effect of high occupational physical demands on brain health and cognitive function in older ages. High physical demands may also result in a lack of time for recuperation and recovery, leading to “wear and tear” of the body and brain. Jobs with low physical demands, on the other hand, may offer more flexibility and time for breaks and recovery.
The study authors suggest that further research should assess how occupational physical activity and interventions to reduce physical activity, or technological changes that alter activity, may relate to the risk of dementia and mild cognitive impairment in older age. Understanding the relationship between occupational histories and cognitive impairment could provide valuable insights into preventive strategies and interventions.
Sources: Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, Norwegian National Centre of Ageing and Health, Butler Columbia Aging Center