这是科罗拉多州立大学（Colorado State University）心理学讲师格温妮丝•费舍尔领导美国密歇根大学社会研究院（the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research）进行的一项最新研究得出的结论。费舍尔说，根据18年的数据，这个研究发现，“一些具有挑战性的工作种类有益于加强和保护人们晚年时的心智能力”。密歇根大学的这项“健康与退休研究”调查共调查了超过20,000名有人口学代表性的51岁至61岁中老年美国人。从1992年至2008年，研究者每隔两年就会向调查对象发放问卷，而这项研究共研究了其中4,182名受访者的回复。这些受访者岗位行业各自不同，但在退休前，他们都在同类型的岗位上工作了相当长的时间——至少10年，平均25年。
So there you are as usual, spending your jam-packed workday making decisions, solving problems, evaluating new information, coming up with creative approaches to tricky situations, and setting strategy for your team. It's what most managers do and, as stressful as it can get, all those constant demands on your brain turn out to have an upside: In later years, probably well into retirement, you may stay sharper mentally than people whose jobs are more routine.
That's the conclusion of a new study from the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, led by Gwenith Fisher, who teaches psychology at Colorado State University. Fisher says the research, based on data spanning 18 years, found that "certain kinds of challenging jobs have the potential to enhance and protect mental functioning later in life."
In analyzing responses from 4,182 people who participate in the U-M Health and Retirement Study, which surveys a representative sample of more than 20,000 older Americans every two years, the researchers looked at eight different polls taken between 1992 and 2010, when the participants were between 51 and 61 years old. They worked in a variety of jobs and had been doing the same type of work for at least 10 years -- about 25 years on average -- before they retired.
The researchers also looked at the "mental requirements" of each job those people reported having held, and tested their acumen on a variety of standardized tests designed to measure cognitive nimbleness, such as recalling a list of nouns immediately after seeing it and again after a delay, and counting backwards from 100 by sevens.
The results clearly showed that the more mentally challenging a person's work before retirement, the more likely he or she was to maintain a high degree of mental sharpness, especially fewer and slower declines in memory, afterward. Moreover, the differences between people who retired from demanding jobs and those who'd had more routine occupations increased as time went on.
Does that imply that people with less complex and demanding jobs are doomed to suffer steeper, more rapid cognitive declines as they age? Not necessarily.
"What people do outside of work could also be a factor," Fisher says. A stimulating hobby or interest could have the same beneficial effect on the cerebrum as challenging work -- whether it's learning a foreign language, studying astronomy, or taking a class in any unfamiliar subject. "Any time you are taking in new information, learning a new skill, or doing a new task, the brain benefits from that," she notes. "The key is to be actively engaged and challenged mentally."
The full study appeared in the March issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.