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Title: Non-employment : a risk factor for cognitive decline in later life?
Author: Sizer, Alison
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 3430
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Ageing is associated with declines in cognitive function, influenced by factors operating across the life course, including employment characteristics. However, few studies have examined the association between non-employment and cognitive function and decline. Disuse theory suggests that cognitive function is vulnerable after the loss of cognitively stimulating activities. Periods out of employment may result in a decrease in such cognitive activity, resulting in lower cognitive function and faster cognitive decline in later life. Non-employment may also provide opportunities to participate in cognitively stimulating activities, and therefore associations between non-employment and cognitive function and decline may depend on the type of non-employment. This PhD investigated the association between non-employment (up to the State Pension Age), and activities undertaken during non-employment, and cognitive function and decline in later life (≥60 years) using data from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Cognitive function was measured using tests of verbal recall, letter search and verbal fluency. Missing data was accounted for using multiple imputation by chained equations. Key findings were that among men, long non-employment durations (>10 years) were associated with lower cognitive function and a trend towards faster cognitive decline. In contrast, relatively intermediate non-employment durations (>10-20 years) among women were associated with higher cognitive function, but there was limited evidence of an association with cognitive decline. The association between non-employment and cognitive function varied according to the type of activity undertaken during non-employment, and was partially explained by the pre-employment variables of childhood cognition and education, and by occupational complexity, mental health, and lifestyle. These results provide partial support for disuse theory and suggest that participating in cognitively stimulating activities during employment gaps may be important, particularly among individuals at risk of long-term non-employment.
Supervisor: Richards, M. ; Sacker, A. ; Lacey, R. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available