According to science, we should work less as we get older.
In fact, as we get older, working long hours can have detrimental effects on our brains.
A recent report from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research looked at the impact of working long hours on cognitive ability. What the study found is that people over the age of 40 performed at their most productive levels when only working 3 days a week.
Study shows people over the age of 40 should only work 3 days a week.
The Australian study involved 2,965 males and 3,502 females. The subjects were given a series of cognitive tests that involved them reading, matching numbers and similar tasks. The researchers were looking for metrics to evaluate the subjects’ ability to remember and use reason.
The study demonstrated that people who were approximately middle-aged showed improved ability to perform the tasks when they worked around 25-30 hours per week. This was the magic range for people of this age, with test results generally being better the closer the person was to working 30 hours a week.
When someone this age works more than that, the study shows a drop-off in productivity.
Working more than 30 hours a week led to a decrease in cognitive function. Participants who worked more than 30 hours a week were shown to have increased levels of fatigue and stress.
“This indicates that the differences in working hours is an important factor for maintaining cognitive functioning in middle and older adults,” the study reads. “In other words, in the middle and older age, working part-time could be effective in maintaining cognitive ability… Our study highlights that too much work can have adverse effects on cognitive functioning.”
The study then concluded:
“Our results indicate that the part-time work is an effective way to maintain cognitive functioning relative to retirement or unemployment.”
Working over 55 hours a week was associated with increased cognitive decline.
Working over 55 hours a week is an unfortunate reality for some in the workforce. The study found that this amount of work was associated with increased cognitive decline. In fact, people who worked this much were shown to perform worse than retired people on the cognitive exercises in the study.
The amount of cognitive decline these over-worked people showed was statistically significant.
This helps to illustrate the impact working long hours can have on our brains.
How does this impact retirement age? In many places around the world, the age at which people are retiring is increasing. With people working later on in their lives, the question then becomes what impact this will have on a person’s cognitive decline in their later years.
“Many countries are going to raise their retirement ages by delaying the age at which people are eligible to start receiving pension benefits. This means that more people continue to work in the later stages of their life,” the study’s co-author, Colin McKenzie, said to The Times.
On the other hand, human beings need some degree of stimulation in their lives, no matter what their age.
“The degree of intellectual stimulation may depend on working hours,” she continued. “Work can be a double-edged sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time long working hours can cause fatigue and stress, which potentially damage cognitive functions.”
To learn more about the brain and how it functions, watch this fascinating video below!
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