Cognitive Function May Be Impacted by Work Environment

Researchers from Florida State University studied the effects of the workplace on cognitive function and found that an unstimulating or unkempt workplace negatively impacts memory and reasoning skills. The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, expands on previous research examining the effects of one’s occupation on deficits in cognitive function later in their life.

Led by Joseph Grzywacz, the Norejane Hendrickson Professor of Family and Child Science, the research team analyzed data from 4,963 adults between the ages of 32 and 84 years old. Participants were part of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, which aims to improve the understanding of how Americans age, including long-term brain health.

Data from the study included the participants’ employment status, place of work, job complexity, physical hazards in the workplace and workplace conditions, such as cleanliness. Cognitive function was assessed using the Brief Test of Adult Cognition by Telephone, which tests episodic memory (memory of events and experiences), self-perceived memory and executive functioning (higher-level reasoning, problem-solving and more).

After analysis, results showed that both men and women working in unclean environments where mold, solvents or other work exposures were present, had an increased risk of cognitive decline. Their workplace environment negatively impacted both their episodic memory and executive functioning skills.

Researchers also found that more stimulating workplaces that offered employees the opportunity to learn new skills or take on new challenges enhanced the brain health of their employees. Greater occupational complexity resulted in better self-perceived memory among both men and women, while the association between a stimulating environment and greater episodic memory and executive functioning was strongest for women.

Whether at work or at home, a clean environment is important for brain health, as well as physical health. And stimulating activities, such as learning a new language, hobby or occupational skill, keep the brain engaged and help prevent cognitive decline associated with aging. The Cognitive Therapeutics Method™ offers activities specifically developed to keep aging minds sharp. Learn more about the Method at