As if we needed another thing to worry about. It’s already tough. We’re slugging the daily commute, working long days, and struggling to meet deadlines. What more? Well, a study by Singh-Manoux et al. (2011) suggests that you may need to think about whether the job you’ve chosen will give you dementia. But wait – there’s even more. How many years did you study? How tall are you? Do we need to consider all these things as well?
Occupation, education, and height… cognitive reserve?
Certain factors can reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Cognitive reserve may be one of them. But what is it? Singh-Manoux et al. define cognitive reserve as a capacity that delays the time between dementia in our brain and the clinical expression of dementia impacting our daily lives. So how do we measure this? The study used occupational position, years of education, and height (cm) to represent cognitive reserve. Singh-Manoux et al. looked at the relationship between cognitive reserve and cognitive functioning. They don’t clearly state their hypotheses.
So what do the results say?
The results? Cognitive functioning decreases over time. Our ability to reason declines most rapidly, while vocabulary is relatively stable over time. This makes sense. It’s natural and inevitable that our mental abilities will decline with increasing age. Additionally, semantic knowledge (e.g., vocabulary) is stable and even improves over time. Singh-Manoux et al. also find that occupation has the largest negative association with cognitive decline. This might suggest that we can use your occupational position to predict your future cognitive decline. Education and height could also be used. However, more testing is needed. Education is a common measure of cognitive reserve. There was not much explanation for the use of height.
Cognitive reserve doesn’t prevent decline. Instead, it reduces or slows our risk of developing dementia. Therefore, regardless of your occupation, education, or height, your abilities will decline as you age. But that’s not to say that cognitive reserve can’t be developed through these factors. There is plenty of exploring to do. Singh-Manoux et al. used static measures of cognitive reserve. That is, they don’t change over time. There is rising research looking at measuring cognitive reserve, such that it captures its dynamic nature.