These 5 jobs put workers at a greater risk of dementia: new research

It’s literally “mind-numbing” work.

So much for the expression “healthy body, healthy mind”: People who work more physically demanding jobs could be more likely to contract dementia, per a study detailed in the science journal The Lancet.

“Our work also highlights what is called the physical activity paradox – the association of leisure time physical activity with better cognitive outcomes, and how work-related physical activity can lead to worse cognitive outcomes,” said head author, Vegard Skirbekk, a professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia Public Health, per the Sun.

He and his team conducted the study in collaboration with the Norwegian National Centre of Ageing and Health and the Butler Columbia Aging Center.

They deduced that “consistently working in an occupation with intermediate or high occupational PA was linked to an increased risk of cognitive impairment.”

Caregivers, nurses and farmers were among the occupations associated with Alzheimer’s.
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Demanding jobs were defined as those that “require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling of materials.”

These vocations include salespeople — retail and other — nursing assistants, farmers, and livestock producers.

Journalists, as of yet, are apparently safe from occupation-induced Alzheimer’s.

Researchers arrived at this frightening conclusion by examining the trajectories of occupational PA at ages 33–65 with “risk of dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) at ages 70+.”

They specifically analyzed the data of 7,005 participants from the HUNT4 70+ Study — one of the world’s largest population-based studies of dementia.

Cows in Anatolia.
“Consistently working in an occupation with intermediate or high occupational physical activity was linked to an increased risk of cognitive impairment, indicating the importance of developing strategies for individuals in physically demanding occupations to prevent cognitive impairment,” study authors wrote.
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Of the pool, 902 had been diagnosed with dementia later in life while 2,407 were suffering from mild cognitive impairment (which authors noted doesn’t necessarily lead to dementia).

The researchers revealed that people in physically demanding lines of work had around a 15.5% higher chance of developing dementia compared to only 9% for low occupational PA.

Researchers deduced that there were several reasons for their findings, namely the havoc these gigs wreak on both body and mind.

Nursing and sales gigs are “often characterized by a lack of autonomy, prolonged standing, hard work, rigid working hours, stress, a higher risk of burnout, and sometimes […] inconvenient working days,” per the study.

This can several impede brain health in older people as increased physical activity later in life has been “linked to smaller hippocampal volume and poorer memory performance,” researchers wrote.

Ceramic store owner receives credit card.
Interestingly, high recreational activity decreases the risk of dementia.
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On the other side of the job spectrum, researchers speculated that less physically demanding gigs reduce the likelihood of cognitive catastrophe by allowing for more breaks and therefore more recovery time.

Interestingly, the same theory doesn’t hold true with higher levels of leisure-time activity, which are conversely associated with a “lower risk of cognitive impairment.”

In other words, studies haven’t entirely disproven the “healthy body health mind” mantra.

Another theory for this blue-collar brain-wasting link, per the study, is that engineering, administration, and teaching, and other “more cognitively stimulating” gigs likely help people maintain a high level of cognition later in life.

Woman hugging her elderly mother.
Alzheimer’s and dementia affect nearly 6 million people in the US.
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Indeed, a 2016 study found that the following jobs help preserve healthy brain function: manager, teacher, lawyer, social worker, engineer, physicist, physician, dentist, and pharmacist.

“Our results particularly underscore the need to follow up on individuals with high lifetime occupational, and physical activity as they appear to have a greater risk of developing dementia,” concluded Dr. Skirbekk.

Of course, this is not the first study to shed light on the link between occupational PA and brain disease — the study references many.

However, in former studies, occupational PA was primarily “self-reported” and was therefore prone to recall bias and misinterpretation.

This was especially true in older subjects whose memory and interpretation may be impacted by shifts in cognitive function, per the research.

Dr. Skirbekk said that future research should assess how occupational physical activity and other factors “relate to dementia and mild cognitive impairment risk in older ages.”

This marks an important breakthrough in understanding Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, which reportedly affect 5.8 million people in the United States, per the Centers For Disease Control.

In a major breakthrough in July, the US Food and Drug Administration granted traditional approval to Lecanemab, a drug that’s proven to significantly slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

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