A study published in the Melbourne Institute Worker Paper series has shown that those aged over forty performed the best when they worked 3 days per week.
Moreover, it involved 3,500 Australian women and 3,000 Australian men. The researchers analyzed their work habits. In short, they tested the ability of the participants to recite lists of numbers as well as read words aloud.
The first part of the testing examined the “thinking” part of ability, such as memory, executive reasoning, and abstract reasoning. In addition, the latter measured their “knowing” part of ability.
The researchers concluded that the cognitive performance of the participants improved when they worked twenty-five hours per week. But, the performance reduced when they worked fifty-five hours per week because of the effects of stress and fatigue.
According to one of the 3 authors of the study, Colin McKenzie, professor at Keio University, the level of intellectual stimulation could depend on working hours. Even though work is a double-edged sword that stimulates brain activity, working more than forty hours per week can result in stress and fatigue that may have a detrimental impact on cognitive functions.
Furthermore, differences in working hours play a great role in maintaining cognitive functioning in elderly and middle-aged adults, meaning that, in older and middle age, working part-time helps maintain cognitive ability.
On the other hand, working more than thirty hours a week can negatively affect middle-aged adults’ brain health. According to McKenzie, working forty hours a week (full-time work) is actually more effective at maintaining optimal cognitive functioning than no work, but it isn’t maximising the positive effects of work.
The results will probably vary in different countries. It’s hard to control each factor that contributes to the final results of any study of this kind (such as choices around the work type and the hours worked).
To sum up, full-time work can have a negative impact on the brain of people aged over forty.