By Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, April 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Having a challenging job may help people live longer after developing a certain type of dementia, a small study suggests.
Researchers analyzed the medical charts of 34 people diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. This type of dementia typically affects people younger than 65 and causes language problems and changes in personality or behavior. It does not affect memory.
The patients survived an average of seven years after diagnosis. However, those who had more challenging jobs survived an average of 9.6 years, compared with six years for those with less challenging jobs.
The researchers also looked at people with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia. In that group, they found that having a more challenging job was not associated with longer survival.
Education level did not affect survival time in patients with either disease, according to the study, published online April 22 in the journal Neurology.
"This study suggests that having a higher occupational level protects the brain from some of the effects of [frontotemporal dementia], allowing people to live longer after developing the disease," study author Lauren Massimo, of Pennsylvania State University, said in a journal news release.
The results also support the "cognitive reserve" theory that factors such as more demanding jobs and greater mental activity may promote connections in the brain that provide some protection against dementia.
However, the study merely found a link between a demanding job and prolonged survival in certain dementia patients; it doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.