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Systematic review of the effect of the psychosocial working environment on cognition and dementia
  1. Francisca S Then1,2,
  2. Tobias Luck1,3,
  3. Melanie Luppa1,
  4. Marleen Thinschmidt4,
  5. Stefanie Deckert4,
  6. Karen Nieuwenhuijsen5,
  7. Andreas Seidler4,
  8. Steffi G Riedel-Heller1
  1. 1Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational Health and Public Health, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  2. 2LIFE—Leipzig Research Center for Civilization Diseases, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  3. 3Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
  4. 4Institute and Policlinic for Occupational and Social Medicine, Medical Faculty of TU Dresden, Dresden, Germany
  5. 5Coronel Institute of Occupational Health, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Francisca S Then, Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational Health and Public Health (ISAP), Medical Faculty, University of Leipzig, Philipp-Rosenthal-Str 55, Leipzig 04103, Germany; Francisca.Then{at}


The high incidence of cognitive impairment in the ageing population, together with the challenges it imposes to health systems, raises the question of what affect working life has on cognitive abilities. The study, therefore, reviews recent work on the longitudinal impact of psychosocial work conditions on cognitive functioning and on dementia. Relevant articles were identified by a systematic literature search in PubMed and PsycINFO using a standardised search string and specific inclusion and exclusion criteria. We included articles reporting longitudinal effects that were investigated in cohort studies, case–control studies or randomised controlled trials in the working population. Two independent reviewers evaluated the studies in three subsequent phases: (i) title–abstract screening, (ii) full-text screening and (iii) checklist-based quality assessment.Methodical evaluation of the identified articles resulted in 17 studies of adequate quality. We found evidence for a protective effect of high job control and high work complexity with people and data on the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Moreover, cognitively demanding work conditions seem to be associated with a decreased risk of cognitive deterioration in old age.Psychosocial work conditions can have an impact on cognitive functioning and even on the risk of dementia. As the world of work is undergoing fundamental changes, such as accelerated technological advances and an ageing working population, optimising work conditions is essential in order to promote and maintain cognitive abilities into old age.

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