Results of a new study show that an unclean and uninspiring workplace may be bad for brain health—but that a sanitary working environment with plenty of mental stimulation may be the key to keeping our minds sharp over time. Researchers at Florida State University used data from the ongoing Midlife in United States (or MIDUS) study, which examines how different behavioral, psychological and social factors affect healthy aging.
In looking at the health records for nearly 5,000 working adults, they determined that a dirty work space—hindered by factors such as mold, indoor toxins (e.g. lead, organophosphates and various solvents) and even noise pollution—was was linked to a long-term decline in cognitive function, including problems with memory and attention span.
Lead author Joseph Grzywacz and his colleagues also determined that a lack of stimulation at work was associated with a similar decline in healthy brain function, especially for women. In other words, fewer opportunities to learn new things and take on new challenges resulted in weaker cognitive performance over time.
“There are real things in the workplace that can shape cognitive function: some that you can see or touch, and others you can’t. We showed that both matter to cognitive health in adulthood,” said Grzywacz.