Australian researchers have published a study that says people over the age of 40 may be impairing their intelligence if they work more than 25 hours a week.
The study examined 6,000 workers over the age of 40 to see how the amount of work performed affected someone’s cognitive ability.
The ideal amount of work was 25 hours per week, according to the study.
But why is 40 the turning point?
According to [one of the researchers], our “fluid intelligence”, which is how well we process information, starts declining around the age of 20 and “crystallised intelligence”, or the ability to use skills, knowledge and experience starts decreasing after 30 years of age. McKenzie said that by age 40, most people perform less well at memory tests, pattern recognition and mental agility exercises.
Previous studies have shown that working overtime has a negative effect on the mental health of employees, but this is the first research that says even what amounts to a regular full-time job may be doing more harm than good.
Another factor is that it is becoming more and more common for people in their 40s to be taking care of both their own children and their aging parents, a situation known as the sandwich generation. That also adds to the stress level of 40-somethings.
At the end of the day, though, most of us are not working to improve our intelligence. We are working to put a roof over our heads and to feed our families.
It’s all well and good, however, to discuss how much better we would be if we worked less than a 40-hour week in an office, but for many people who need the income to survive, it’s not a viable financial option. Many over 40s also wouldn’t dream of working less than a 40-hour week, given the option, as they say it gives them a necessary stimulus, calling the research overblown.