Work Biographies as Facilitators of Cognitive and Brain Development: A Lifespan Perspective on Occupational Health

  • In Germany as well as in most industrialized countries of the Western hemisphere, the workforce is constantly ‘aging’. Increasing age, however, is associated with a number of health risks. Cognitive decline may be a particular challenge to health at work. Long-term exposure to low mental stimulation at work has detrimental effects on brain and cognition. Low job complexity has repeatedly been associated with lower levels of cognitive functioning and with a higher risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. But good cognitive health is a necessary prerequisite to preserve well-being, work ability, and productivity. However, research has not yet found an effective way how to counteract these effects. This dissertation set out to fill this gap. Therefore, three studies were conducted: a conceptual literature review which systematized the available evidence on 'in vivo' mental stimulation as well as two experimental studies that investigated the effect of multiple work-task changes (WTC) on the cognitive functioning and brain anatomy of long-term industrial production workers. The findings reveal that (a) besides complexity, active learning and recurrent novelty can serve as valuable facilitators of positive plasticity in the cognitive system, (b) industrial production workers who underwent multiple WTC over 17 years showed higher levels of cognitive functioning, and displayed (c) more gray matter volume in hypothesized areas than a matched control group with 0 or 1 WTC. With this, the current dissertation extends the available evidence on the critical contextual features that foster cognitive plasticity; suggests recurrent exposure to WTC as strategic health management instrument to counteract cognitive decline; underlines the importance of cognitive health and cognitive aging as vital but neglected fields of occupational health psychology; and emphasizes the need for a lifespan developmental perspective on occupational health management.

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Meta data
Publishing Institution:IRC-Library, Information Resource Center der Jacobs University Bremen
Granting Institution:Jacobs Univ.
Author:Jan Oltmanns
Referee:Arvid Kappas, Ben Godde, Florian Schmiedek
Advisor:Ursula Staudinger
Persistent Identifier (URN):urn:nbn:de:gbv:579-opus-1004643
Document Type:PhD Thesis
Date of Successful Oral Defense:2015/06/04
Year of Completion:2015
Date of First Publication:2015/09/01
Full Text Embargo Until:2016/09/30
Academic Department:Psychology & Methods
PhD Degree:Psychology
Focus Area:Diversity
Library of Congress Classification:R Medicine / RC Internal medicine / RC952-1245 Special situations and conditions / RC952-954.6 Geriatrics / RC953.5-953.8 Therapeutics / RC953.8 Special therapies, A-Z / RC953.8.O22 Occupational therapy
Call No:Thesis 2015/28

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