WEDNESDAY, March 14, 2018If you’re planning a career change or wondering if a challenging job could have positive effects, research might provide some intriguing answers.

In a 2014 study, scientists in Scotland used levels of job complexity based on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles for an analysis of more than 1,000 participants with an average age of 70. They found that two types of complex jobs lead to longer-lasting memory and thinking ability, years after retirement.

One is working at a high level with data. The other is working at a high level with other people, on tasks like teaching, negotiating and mentoring. According to the lead author of the study, the theory is that more stimulating work environments may help people retain these mental skills.

While the effect of occupation accounts for just a 1 to 2 percent variance between people with high- and low-complexity jobs, that differential is similar to some lifestyle factors that affect better thinking skills in later life, such as not smoking.

The most complex jobs involving data include:

  • Architect.
  • Civil engineer.
  • Graphic designer.
  • Musician.

The least complex jobs involving data include:

  • Construction worker.
  • Telephone operator.
  • Food server.

The most complex jobs involving other people include:

  • Surgeon.
  • Lawyer.
  • Social worker.
  • Probation officer.

The least complex jobs involving other people include:

  • Factory worker.
  • Painter.
  • Carpet layer.
  • Bookbinder.

Do complex jobs buffer the brain, or do people who go into more challenging occupations have higher thinking skills to begin with? It’s a little of both, the researchers said.

That’s food for thought as you contemplate your next career move.

More information

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

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