Challenging. If that’s a defining word for your job, then you should look forward to mental benefits after you retire.
“Based on data spanning 18 years, our study suggests that certain kinds of challenging jobs have the potential to enhance and protect workers’ mental functioning in later life,” said Gwenith Fisher, a faculty associate at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) and assistant professor of psychology at Colorado State University.
The study Fisher is referring to involved 4,182 participants, ages 51 to 61, who were interviewed eight times between 1992 and 2010. They had been doing the same job for more than 25 years, and their duties included analyzing data, solving problems, evaluating information, making decisions, and developing strategies. The researchers discovered that those who worked in mentally challenging jobs had better memories before they retired and slower memory declines after they retired, compared to those whose jobs were less mentally demanding.
“These results suggest that working in an occupation that requires a variety of mental processes may be beneficial to employees,” said Jessica Faul, an ISR assistant research scientist. “It’s likely that being exposed to new experiences or more mentally complex job duties may benefit not only newer workers but more seasoned employees as well. Employers should strive to increase mental engagement at work and, if possible, outside of work as well, by emphasizing life-long learning activities.”
The researchers did control for formal education and income; however, they admit that people with higher levels of mental functioning chose jobs with more mental challenges.
“What people do outside of work could also be a factor,” Fisher said. “Some people may be very active in hobbies and other activities that are mentally stimulating and demanding, while others are not.”
How mentally challenging is your job? Or do you engage in non-work hobbies that challenge your brain, and if so, which ones? Please contribute to the conversation in the comments section.