New Study Finds That People Age 40+ should only work 3 days a week

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( — August 13, 2017) — While a workload of up to 30 hours per week is good for cognitive functions in the fourth decade of life, further effort causes a decrease in the productivity of a person, Science Punch reports.

A study conducted by experts at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research claims that people who worked 55 hours a week or more had the biggest drop in cognitive abilities, bigger than those who were unemployed, retired or did not work at all.

The study included 3500 women and 3,000 men over the age of 40. While people were taking cognitive function tests, their effectiveness at work was also observed. The test, known as Household Income and Labor Dynamics, measured how many people are capable of reading words accurately, combining words and numbers, and reciting a list of numbers.

The author of this test, Professor Colin McKenzie of the University of Melbourne, notes that “knowledge” and “thinking” are also significant indicators. Reading tests are the element of “knowledge” in ability, while “thinking” includes memory, effective and abstract thinking.

While a certain degree of intellectual stimulation, such as crosswords and Sudoku, is believed to bolster retention of cognitive function at an older age, excessive stimulation has a reverse effect.

Many countries are aiming to increase retirement ages, to reduce retirement benefits and increase productivity, Professor McKenzie told the British newspaper. However, the appropriate amount of work can be significantly relevant to this, the professor said.

The level of intellectual stimulation may depend on working hours. Work can be a double-edged sword, according to Professor McKenzie. On the one hand, it can stimulate brain activity, while on the other working too much can lead to exhaustion and stress, which potentially destroys cognitive function.

McKenzie believes that part-time work can be used to preserve brain functions in middle and older ages. Therefore, two questions arise: Whether people can afford to reduce their working hours and whether the job type is a significant variable in the research?

The Hilda test does not analyze how the job type affects the results, so it still needs to be examined, Professor McKenzie explains.

“It is very difficult to identify the causal effect of job type on cognitive functions. People can focus on certain professions according to their cognitive abilities,” he said.

Professor McKenzie suggests, however, that “Working full-time – over 40 hours a week is still better than not working with regard to preserving cognitive functions, but it does not maximize potential effects of work.”

Balance seems to be necessary, especially as governments of some countries plan to introduce full-time employment up to 67 when a person can retire.