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Job demand and control in mid-life and physical and mental functioning in early old age: do childhood factors explain these associations in a British birth cohort?

Cooper, Rachel and MB, von Bonsdorff and Cooper, R and Kuh, D (2014) Job demand and control in mid-life and physical and mental functioning in early old age: do childhood factors explain these associations in a British birth cohort? BMJ Open, 4. ISSN 2044-6055

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Abstract

Objectives Adverse work-related exposures have been linked with decreased physical and mental functioning in later life, however, whether childhood factors explain the associations between work exposures and functioning is unknown. Our aim was to investigate if job demand and control in mid-life were related to self-reported physical and mental functioning in early old age and whether childhood factors explained these associations. Design Prospective cohort study. Setting England, Scotland and Wales. Participants and outcome measures Data come from the UK Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, a cohort with follow-up since birth in 1946. 1485 occupationally active study members had data available on job demand and control in mid-life and on physical and mental functioning assessed using the Short Form-36 questionnaire at 60–64 years. Results Those with higher job control in mid-life had better physical functioning than those who reported lower job control (β 0.51, 95% CI 0.02 to 1.01, p=0.04 adjusted for adult confounders). Those with higher job demand in mid-life had poorer mental functioning (β −0.82, 95% CI −1.14 to −0.51, p<0.001). Associations between job control and mental functioning were similar but less pronounced. Adjustment for childhood factors (father's and mother's educational attainment, parents’ interest in school at age 7 and cognitive ability at age 8) partially explained the association between job control and physical functioning, but did not explain the association between job demand and mental functioning. Conclusions Job demand and control in mid-life are differentially associated with mental and physical functioning in early old age and some of these associations may be partially explained by childhood factors.

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