The Impact of Dull and Dirty Work Environments on Cognitive Functioning

If you think the hygiene of your working environment is only detrimental to your physical health, you might be surprised to learn that an unclean work environment can actually tear your cognitive functions down, negatively affecting your mental health in the long run.

This isn’t the first time science has explored the connection between an individual’s occupation and their cognitive abilities. A study from 2014 revealed that working yourself until you burn out could cause deficits in your cognitive functions during your later years.

According to Joseph Grzywacz, the lead researcher, medical research has already taken great strides to prove that a dirty environment can affect cognitive functioning over the long term.

Studies have emerged in recent years to accuse dirty and unstimulating work environments of debilitating mental health. Grzywacz, a professor at Florida State University, and his colleagues sought to determine which of these two factors, a dirty or dull workplace, had the most drastic impact on mental health.dirty-job

In a study whose results were published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Joseph and his team looked into data from nearly 5,000 adults at least half of whom were females.

The subjects, who fell within a variety of age groups ranging from 32 to 84 years old, were part of the Midlife in United States Study. They were expected to provide thorough occupational information including workplace conditions, job complexity, and employment status, not to mention the presence or absence of physical hazards and other factors relating to their workplace.

The subjects were closely assessed using the Brief test of Adult Cognition by Telephone. The assessments were purposed towards testing factors like executive functioning and episodic memory.

When the subjects were tested and the results analyzed, Joseph and his team realized that individuals who had the displeasure of working in filthy environments had a higher chance of experiencing a decline in their cognitive functioning, this in comparison to men and women working in clean environments.

Not only did these individuals who were regularly exposed to chemicals, mold, solvents and the like, have poorer episodic memory, but their ability to use higher-level cognitive skills suffered as well.

Additionally, the study found that those individuals playing complex roles in their workplace which encouraged them to master new skills and undertake difficult challenges boasted superior cognitive function, at least when compared to persons with dull jobs.

Joseph Grzywacz’s work proves the important role that clean and stimulating work environments can play in an individual’s mental and emotional development.