Is your working environment dull and dirty? If so, there’s a good chance you’ll get dumber as you age.
A new study from the Florida State University researchers shows that both a lack of stimulation in the workplace and a dirty working environment can have a long-term cognitive effect on employees.
"Psychologists say that the brain is a muscle, while industrial hygienists point to chemicals in the work environment that may cause decline," said lead researcher Joseph Grzywacz, adding "There are real things in the workplace that can shape cognitive function: some that you can see or touch, and others you can't. We showed that both matter to cognitive health in adulthood."
Grzywacz and his team obtained cognitive function data from working adults participating in the Midlife in the United States study. Their results had two major takeaways: One was that greater occupational complexity, that is the learning of new skills and taking on new challenges, resulted in stronger cognitive performance particularly for women as they aged.
The second result was that men and women who had jobs that exposed them to a dirty working environment saw a cognitive decline.
"Both of these issues are important when we think about the long-term health of men and women," said Grzywacz, who also serves as the chair of the Department of Family and Child Sciences.
"The practical issue here is cognitive decline associated with aging and the thought of, 'if you don't use it, you lose it,'" Grzywacz said. "Designing jobs to ensure that all workers have some decision making ability may protect cognitive function later in life, but it's also about cleaning up the workplace."
The data included 4,963 adults ages 32 to 84 from the 48 contiguous states. The sample was 47 per cent male and 53 per cent female.
Grzywacz' findings are published in the June issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.