Working for a paycheck may come with an extra benefit when it comes to women’s brain health.
Women who have spent time in the paid workforce during their adult lives — regardless of whether they were married or single, with or without children — have slower rates of memory decline after age 60 than women who did not work for pay, a new study has found.
Women who had children, in particular, saw these benefits even when they stopped working for years to raise kids and then returned to their paid jobs.
Since memory decline can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s dementia and almost two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease are women, the findings – published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology — offer insight into factors that might lower the risk.
In general, working is better than not working for cognitive health, said Erika Sabbath, study co-author and an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Boston College.
“Often when we think about work, we think about the hazards of work so things like stress and physical strain. But there are also a lot of real benefits to be derived from working,” Sabbath told TODAY.
“While there’s no debate that managing a home and a family can be a complex and full-time job,” it’s paid work that seems to protect from memory loss, added lead author Elizabeth Rose Mayeda, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, in a statement.
The potential benefits of a job include social engagement and intellectual stimulation, which are known to be protective against cognitive decline, Sabbath noted.
Another aspect is financial security, which provides both peace of mind and access to “all of the things that money can buy that help make life better and less stressful” like health care, a good diet and a gym membership, she added.
The findings are based on data from 6,189 women who were 57 years old on average at the start of the study. They were divided into groups based on whether they were married or single; with or without children; and whether they worked continuously, took a break or never had a paid job at all between the ages of 16 and 50.
As they were followed for about 12 years, the women were regularly given memory tests.
The researchers found that those who worked for pay experienced slower rates of memory decline, regardless of marital and parenthood status, than their non-working peers. Strikingly, the average rate of memory decline was 50% greater among women who didn’t work for pay after having children compared with those who were working mothers. (Source: Yahoo Life)