As your age increases, your workload should decrease, one study says
If working more than three days a week just doesn’t feel right, research might be on the side of people more than 40 years of age.
Supporting the idea of a four-day weekend, a Melbourne Institute Worker Paper report from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research explores the “effect of working hours on cognitive ability.”
Researchers at the University of Melbourne found a correlation between age and productivity that’s been making headlines since the report was published in 2016: People over the age of 40 performed at their most productive levels when they didn’t work more than three days a week.
For the study, 2,965 males and 3,502 females, all Australian, were given a series of cognitive tests that asked them to read text aloud, read text backward and match numbers and letters under a given time limit. The tests, the researchers said, would help them measure the participants’ memory and ability to reason.
The researchers found that when the middle-aged volunteers worked just 25 to 30 hours a week, they experienced a positive effect on their cognitive function, which improved as their working hours increased. But when their working hours exceeded that amount, there was a negative impact on their cognition, and participants felt more fatigued and stressed.
“This indicates that the differences in working hours is an important factor for maintaining cognitive functioning in middle and older adults,” the researchers said in the study. “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.”
They added: “Our results indicate that the part-time work is an effective way to maintain cognitive functioning relative to retirement or unemployment.”
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The study also found that subjects who worked 55 hours a week showed cognitive issues that were worse than people who were retired or unemployed, according to HuffPost.
With the social security retirement age increasing in the U.S. — it’s moved from 66 to 66.5 in 2019 — the study brings into focus how middle-aged adults and the elderly should be working less to maintain their mental wellbeing.
“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, told The Times in the U.K, according to Travel + Leisure.
“The degree of intellectual stimulation may depend on working hours,” McKenzie 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.”
Billionaire Richard Branson has previously advocated for a three-day workweek, stating that flexible schedules allow employees to be more productive. Carlos Slim, a Mexican billionaire, also vouched for the idea, though he would require an 11-hour work day and people to continue working until they reach their 70s.