Purpose: We sought to examine how different activities performed during employment gaps are associated with later cognitive function and change. Methods: Five cognitive measures were used to indicate cognitive impairment of 18,259 respondents to the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (ages 50-73) in 2004/5 or 2006/7. Using complete employment histories, employment gaps of ≥6 months between ages 25 and 65 were identified. Results: Controlling for early life socioeconomic status, school performance, and education, higher risk of cognitive impairment was associated with employment gaps described as unemployment (odds ratio [OR],1.18; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-1.35) and sickness (OR,1.78; 95% CI, 1.52-2.09). In contrast, lower risk of cognitive impairment was associated with employment gaps described as training (OR,0.73; 95% CI, 0.52-1.01) or maternity leave (OR,0.65; 95% CI, 0.57-0.79). In longitudinal mixed effects models, training and maternity leave were associated with lower 2-year aging-related cognitive decline. Discussion: Periods away from work described as unemployment or sickness are associated with lower cognitive function, whereas maternity and training leaves are associated with better late-life cognitive function. Both causation and selection mechanisms may explain these findings.

Cognition, Cognitive reserve, Employment status
dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.annepidem.2013.05.014, hdl.handle.net/1765/69215
Annals of Epidemiology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Leist, A.K, Glymour, M.M, Mackenbach, J.P, van Lenthe, F.J, & Avendano, M. (2013). Time away from work predicts later cognitive function: Differences by activity during leave. Annals of Epidemiology, 23(8), 455–462. doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2013.05.014