Sure, Work Reduces Risk of Dementia, But So Do Hobbies

I'll bet most people know the balance in their 401K accounts without needing to look at the latest statement. Well, as a hang tag I once saw on my hotel room door in mid-town Manhattan read: Fougettabowtit. If you haven't yet decided to keep working until you drop, the latest medical study from France may help you decide -- but hopefully not.

This week Medical News Today reported that "Carole Dufouil of the Bordeaux School of Public Health, and colleagues, found that the risk of being diagnosed with dementia went down for each year of working longer." Dr Dufouil, who is also the "director of research in neuroepidemiology at the school's National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM - Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale)" claims "our data show strong evidence of a significant decrease in the risk of developing dementia associated with older age at retirement, in line with the 'use it or lose it' hypothesis...." It goes on to say, "The patterns were even stronger when we focused on more recent birth cohorts.”

I do not question that this study followed all appropriate statistical and methodological protocols, but implying that extending our active working lives is the best control variable to ward off dementia seems rather biased. The MNT article acknowledges that exercise and diet also contribute to reducing dementia risk, but the underlying assumption that "work" serves as the primary lever in "maintaining high levels of cognitive and social stimulation" offends me.

My work is stimulating, granted. But if we informally assess the type of work that the majority of people do for economic survival, I don't suspect that very many would consider their daily toil to provide adequate change and stimulation. As far as mental stimulants go, I find that playing and listening to music, carpentry, reading, and cooking to provide a nice balance to working with my colleagues. The prospect of awakening every morning to pursue my passions sounds glorious.

Somewhat ironically, the sample population for this recent study consisted of self-employed people living in France. Cheers!

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