Occupational Complexity and Dementia Among African Americans

Occupational Complexity and Dementia Among African Americans

African Americans have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias among people 65 and older. The nature and mental complexity of occupational tasks during adulthood appears to influence dementia risk in late life. Previous studies, however, have mainly involved white people and have not examined whether race combined with occupation is associated with dementia risk.

A study of more than 1,000 racially diverse older adults, published on June 16 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that African Americans with the lowest-complexity jobs had greater risk for dementia compared with African Americans whose jobs involved greater complexity. Examples of the lowest-complexity jobs were storekeepers, truck drivers, janitors, waiters, and nursing aides. Those African Americans engaged in higher-complexity jobs had a lower dementia risk, similar to non-Hispanic Whites.

The authors recommend that interventions to prevent dementia in African Americans should focus on individuals in the least complex occupations. The study’s lead author was Jinshil Hyun, Ph.D., a research fellow in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein.

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