By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There is encouraging news for working moms. While it might be difficult, new research says it can protect memory and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not just for the money, either. Paid employment can have positive, long-term benefits for a woman’s brain.

The new findings come from a federally-funded long-term study of aging people across the United States.

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Having a paying job appears to protect women from memory loss later in life, according to new research that suggests paid work offers better mental stimulation than staying at home. It also usually indicates better financial support.

Women who worked for a salary between the ages of 16 and 50 years old – whether they were moms or not – had better memories later in life than women who did not work, the study found.

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The rate of memory deterioration was fastest among women who never earned a wage.

Researchers found non-working single moms had memory declines of 83% faster than working moms.

The researchers spent two decades conducting cognitive tests on more than 6,000 women.

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Non-working married moms had their memory decline 61% faster over a 10-year period than women who have paying jobs.

Women who left the workforce and returned later in life had slower memory loss than women who’d never worked.

Researchers say social engagement was most beneficial.

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Paid work allows for women to better build a social network that prevents them from losing their memory as fast.

In addition to slower memory decline, the study showed working women are probably at lower risk of dementia.

The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles.

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Memory loss is one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s.

Stephanie Stahl