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Job Strain and Risk of Dementia

About the Author

My name is Julie, and I am a graduate student in the public health field. My background is in neurobiology, and I am working in clinical research while pursuing my master’s degree. My research interests center around how psychosocial factors influence health outcomes.

During my experience with the California Teachers Study, I worked under the guidance of Dr. Lacey. In this project, I had the opportunity to apply the epidemiological concepts and skills I’ve learned to this cohort study.

My Research Project

My project evaluated whether job strain, a measure of stress collected on Questionnaire 3 (2000 – 2002), was associated with dementia risk among participants in the California Teachers Study.

Job strain measures how much control participants had at work and whether they had too many demands. Based on these two dimensions, participants were categorized into 4 job strain groups:

  • active (high control and high demands)

  • low (high control and low demands)

  • passive (low control and low demands),

  • high (low control and high demands)

It was hypothesized that participants in the high job strain group—the group experiencing the most stress—would be at greater risk for dementia. This analysis accounted for participants’ age, race/ethnicity, marital status, and socioeconomic status when evaluating the relationship between job strain and dementia risk.

We found that participants in the passive strain group (low control and low demands) were at greater risk for dementia compared to participants in the active strain group, which was the reference group. In this analysis, we did not find significant differences in terms of risk of developing dementia between the high strain group and the active strain group or between the low strain group and the active strain group.

Overall, these results suggest that passive job strain may be associated with increased dementia risk. Future analyses should account for additional factors that are also associated with dementia risk, such as cardiometabolic conditions, physical inactivity, depression, and smoking status. Data on these factors are available in the California Teachers Study and taking them into consideration would provide stronger support for the association between job strain and dementia risk.

Future Goals

From this experience, I was able to apply what I learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. Exploring how stress and other psychological and social factors impact health is a major research interest for me, and I hope to continue pursuing this area of research in my career.

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