To examine the association between work stress and cognitive performance.
Cognitive performance of a total of 99 women (mean age = 47.3 years) working in hospital wards at either the top or bottom quartiles of job strain was assessed using validated tests that measured learning, short-term memory, and speed of memory retrieval.
The high job strain group (n = 43) had lower performance than the low job strain group (n = 56) in learning (P = 0.025), short-term memory (P = 0.027), and speed of memory retrieval (P = 0.003). After controlling for education level, only the difference in speed of memory retrieval remained statistically significant (P = 0.010).
The association found between job strain and speed of memory retrieval might be one important factor explaining the effect of stress on work performance.