Have you noticed that as you grow older, you cannot focus or remember facts quite the way you used to? Well, it may be work that you can blame for that.
According to a study conducted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, working up to 30 hours per week is actually good for the cognitive functions later in life. Well, are there any additional hours of work beyond that point, though? So, if there are, they can lead to overload and performance decline.
In those findings, the research team also pointed out that the greatest decline was actually among people who worked for about 55 hours during the week. Even more, they have shown some signs of cognitive impairment greater than any other group. This included people without a job and those retired.
This was not a small-scale study either:
The research included 6500 people (adults), 40 or greater. In addition to monitoring the work performance, the study also tested regularly the cognitive function in the participants.
A test measures the cognitive function in the participants. The name of the test is the Household Income and Labor Dynamic in Australia survey. It did so by tracking how well they had the ability to read aloud, match letters and numbers.
Professor Colin McKenzie of the University of Melbourne is the designer of this test. It is actually designed to test both knowing and thinking factors. The thinking elements were tested by memory tests and reasoning tests, both abstract and concrete.
The authors of the study note that some intellectual stimulation help in retaining cognitive function as we grow older, including crosswords, Sudoku. But some other puzzles, excessive stimulation (like working too much) can have a completely opposite effect.
As McKenzie has noted, this has real consequences all around the world…
Many countries have in recent years raised the retirement ages. This forces people to work a lot longer, before having the ability to claim benefits, often in some jobs for which they are no longer suited. They experience cognitive decline, which ironically enough, may, in fact, be hastened by the work hours of those people.
As a result of this, McKenzie says, the key for this may be finding some ways to reduce the working hours in middle and older age, which will also help in preserving the brain function, without impairing it. Unluckily, the problem is that just a few people can afford to reduce their hours in such a way.
Additionally, it still remains unclear if the type of work determines the results from working more than 30 hours/week. The Hilda test does not differentiate between different job roles.
McKenzie notes that it is very difficult to identify the effects of the type of work…
People may also be selected into certain occupations, according to the cognitive abilities that they have. It seems reasonable to assume that higher stress jobs, may be more damaging to cognitive functions.
As most of the people cannot afford to cut their hours, they can still take some steps in order to take care of their mental health. This includes incorporating regular downtime and vacations.
As McKenzie also notes, working full time, over 40 hours during a week, is still even better than no work in terms of maintaining the cognitive function. But it is not maximizing the potential effects of work.
Inspired by: Independent