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Workplace Exposures and Cognitive Function During Adulthood: Evidence From National Survey of Midlife Development and the O*NET

Grzywacz, Joseph G. PhD; Segel-Karpas, Dikla PhD; Lachman, Margie E. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2016 - Volume 58 - Issue 6 - p 535–541
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000727

Objective: Expand understanding of the role of selected workplace exposures (ie, occupational complexity, conflict in the workplace, pace of work, and physical hazards) in adults’ cognitive function.

Methods: Cross-sectional data (n = 1991) from the second wave of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study; restricted to participants who completed telephone-based cognitive assessments of episodic memory, executive functioning, and self-perceived memory. Occupational exposure data were harvested from the O*NET Release 6.0.

Results: Greater complexity was associated with better self-perceived memory among women and men, and better episodic memory and executive functioning among women. Greater physical hazards were independently associated with poorer episodic memory and executive functioning.

Conclusions: Objective assessments of physical and psychosocial exposures in the workplace are independently associated with cognitive outcomes in adulthood, with psychosocial exposures being particularly pronounced among women.

Department of Family and Child Sciences, Florida State University, Tallahassee (Dr Grzywacz); Department of Gerontology, The University of Haifa (Dr Segel-Karpas); and Department of Psychology, Brandeis University, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Lachman).

Address correspondence to: Joseph G. Grzywacz, PhD, Department of Family and Child Science, Florida State University, 120 Convocation Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32306 (

This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (2P01AG020166-07).

Authors Grzywacz, Segel-Karpas, and Lachman have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Copyright © 2016 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine