Multifaceted Demands of Work and Cognitive Functioning: Findings From the Health and Retirement Study

Yeonjung Jane Lee, Ernest Gonzales, Ross Andel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The present study examines the associations between mental, social, and physical demands of work and cognitive functioning among older adults in the United States. Method: Data from 3,176 respondents in the Health and Retirement Study were analyzed using growth curve modeling (2004-2014). The study investigated differences by gender, race, ethnicity, and education. Results: Higher mental and social demands of work were associated with higher levels of initial cognitive functioning, but were not significantly associated with slower cognitive decline over time. Physical demands of work were negatively associated with initial cognitive functioning and were also marginally associated with a slower rate of decline in cognitive functioning going into older adulthood. In stratified analyses, results varied by sociodemographic characteristics. Discussion: The results partially support the environmental complexity hypothesis and the productive aging framework in that higher mental and social demands and lower physical demands relate to better cognitive functioning at baseline, with the differences appearing stable throughout older adulthood. The stratified results shed light on addressing disparities in cognitive aging and work environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-361
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Cognition
  • Employment and older workers
  • Quantitative methods
  • Work complexity
  • Intelligence
  • Cognitive Dysfunction/physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Educational Status
  • Job Description
  • Social Interaction
  • Aging/psychology
  • Cognitive Aging/physiology
  • Female
  • Aged
  • Physical Functional Performance
  • Sociodemographic Factors
  • Work Performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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