A common question is can women show a mental decline like men can? New research shows that women who work during early adulthood and midlife have slower rates of memory decline later in life, than women who didn’t work outside the home.
Money Talk News’ recent article entitled “Here Is How Women Can Slow Mental Decline” reports that the National Institute on Aging aided the study financially. It was published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
More than 6,000 women ages 55 and older reported their employment, marriage and parenthood statuses between ages 16 and 50. The participants also did word recall memory assessments every two years over an average of 12 years.
The researchers evaluated rates of memory decline later in life, which is one measure linked with dementia. They found that women who worked — regardless of marriage and parenthood status — had a slower average rate of memory decline later in life.
Further, after age 60, the average rate of memory decline was 50% faster among women who didn’t work for pay after having children, compared with working mothers.
The study’s author Elizabeth Rose Mayeda of the UCLA School of Public Health said that even mothers who took a time off when their children were young and then returned to work had slower rates of memory decline later in life.
They also found that the exact timing of a woman’s time in the workforce wasn’t significant.
Mayeda explains in an American Academy of Neurology announcement:
“Rates of memory decline were similar for married working mothers including those who consistently worked, those who stayed home for a few years with children as well as those who stayed home many years before returning to the workforce, suggesting that the benefits of labor force participation may extend far into adulthood.”
Other demographic characteristics — including race, childhood socioeconomic status and level of education — didn’t explain the relationship between work history and memory decline.
Mayeda remarked that cognitive stimulation, social engagement and financial security could be possible explanations for why working for pay is associated with slower rates of memory loss.
Reference: Money Talk News (Feb. 2, 2021) “Here Is How Women Can Slow Mental Decline”