Influence of Education and Complex Work on Alzheimer's Risk

Influence of Education and Complex Work on Alzheimer's Risk

Both higher educational attainment and occupational complexity (i.e., mental engagement at work) are associated with lower rates of dementia. However, the contributions of each factor to lower dementia rates are not well understood.

In a study published online on November 11 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers led by Jinshil Hyun, Ph.D., found that both early-life education and adulthood occupational complexity independently contribute to dementia-free survival time in several parts of the world. After analyzing data on more than 10,000 people in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, the authors reported a “threshold effect” for education: People with ‘high school completion or above’ were less likely to develop dementia, although there was no significant difference in dementia rates between ‘high school completion’ and ‘above high school completion.’ On average, 28% of education’s impact on risk for dementia occurred through the complexity of the jobs attained through education. For Blacks in the Bronx, education’s effect on dementia risk owed even more to job complexity: 50% of education’s impact on risk for developing dementia was due to the complexity of the occupations that education made possible. The authors concluded that dementia-prevention efforts should include prioritizing early-life education and developing ways to reduce the risk of dementia in individuals with low occupational complexity.

Dr. Hyun is a research fellow in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein.

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