Um, this seems pretty unfair. A new study looking into what causes Alzheimer’s disease is sure to give a little extra anxiety and doubt to women who have already been subject to plenty of anxiety and doubt in the past over their choices to work outside the home or not. Just what everyone needs.
For this study, which was published last week in the journal Neurology, a team of researchers gave memory tests to 6,000 women every two years from 1995 through 2016. The women were a mix of mothers and non-mothers, working and non-working, married and single.
Between ages 55 and 60, memory scores were similar across all profiles. However, after age 60, the average rate of memory decline was 50 percent greater among women who had stayed home with their kids, compared with those who were working mothers. Marital status had no effect on the results.
What Does It Mean?
“Women who worked for pay in early adulthood and midlife experienced slower rates of later-life memory decline, regardless of marital and parenthood status, suggesting participation in the paid labor force may protect against later-life memory decline,” the researchers found.
When they worked didn’t matter, reported the study author Elizabeth Rose Mayeda, Ph.D., MPH, of the University of California, Los Angeles. Memory loss rates were similar whether a woman took few or many years off with children before returning to paid work, or remained consistently in the paid workforce.
The results suggest that the benefits of labor force participation may extend far into adulthood, Mayeda said. Since the majority of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are women, public policy that supports working women may reduce the personal, social, and cost burden of the disease, she and her colleagues concluded.
So, yeah, we as a society owe it to mothers to better support them if they want to work, and to help them stay mentally active and engaged (and free from guilt too), if they don’t. In the meantime, keep up with the crossword puzzles.