European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 131–140 | Cite as

The role of cognitive resources for subjective work ability and health in nursing

  • Andreas IhleEmail author
  • Erika Borella
  • Marlen Rahnfeld
  • Sandrine R. Müller
  • Sören Enge
  • Winfried Hacker
  • Jürgen Wegge
  • Michel Oris
  • Matthias Kliegel
Original Investigation


Cognitive resources can be considered to be key variables in the context of work ability and health, particularly in the aging workforce. However, research on this issue is sparse, lacking a comprehensive examination of specific cognitive functions. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to examine the association of cognitive resources with subjective work ability and health in more detail. In 166 geriatric care workers (mean age 42.1 years, SD = 11.5, range 20–62), subjective work ability and health were assessed. Additionally, a comprehensive battery of cognitive tests measuring crystallized intelligence, cognitive speed, short-term memory, working memory, and inhibition was administered in a standardized procedure. Controlling for individual differences in age, education, depressive symptoms, self-regulation strategies (in terms of selective optimization with compensation), and cognitive resources (particularly better performance in short-term memory, working memory, and inhibition) were related to better subjective work ability and health. The present results demonstrate the relation of a variety of specific cognitive functions with subjective work ability and health over and above individual differences in age, education, depressive symptoms, and self-regulation strategies. Implications to explicitly consider a set of cognitive resources in models of work and organizational psychology, particularly with respect to the aging workforce, are discussed.


Subjective work ability Subjective health Cognition Aging workforce Nursing 



We would like to thank the other members of the ODEM study group, which consists of Paulina Bilinska, Katharina Goerdeler, Katharina Roitzsch, Nadine Schrod, Anne Tomaschek, and Johannes Wendsche. Furthermore, we wish to thank our student assistants Martha Baumgärtel, Florian Dietsch, Tino Franzke, Franziska Giller, Adam Karcz, Nadine Richter, Annett Weber, and Monique Zenker for helping with the data collection, as well as Lena Küttler and Franziska Spannbauer for helping to prepare the cognitive test battery. Winfried Hacker, Matthias Kliegel, and Jürgen Wegge acknowledge support from the German Research Foundation (DFG; grants HA 2249/17-1, KL 2303/7-1, and WE 1504/12-1)). Michel Oris benefited from the support of the NCCR LIVES. Overcoming Vulnerability. Life Course Perspectives. The NCCR are a tool of the Swiss National Science Foundation. The publication was further supported by a PhD scholarship awarded by the German Social Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung, DGUV) to Marlen Rahnfeld.

Conflict of interest

We declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Ihle
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Erika Borella
    • 3
  • Marlen Rahnfeld
    • 4
  • Sandrine R. Müller
    • 5
  • Sören Enge
    • 4
  • Winfried Hacker
    • 4
  • Jürgen Wegge
    • 4
  • Michel Oris
    • 2
  • Matthias Kliegel
    • 1
  1. 1.Cognitive Aging Lab, Department of PsychologyUniversity of GenevaGeneva 4Switzerland
  2. 2.Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Gerontology and Vulnerability and NCCR LIVESUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of General PsychologyUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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