Work; just that word alone makes most of us want to hide under our covers, sleep past our alarms, and pretend that reality doesn’t exist. We live in an overworked, overstressed society that seems to demand more and more from us each day, and work responsibilities continue to pile up. We must work so many hours just to barely scrape by, often sacrificing our health, family time, and other important aspects of life to make ends meet.

While we all could benefit greatly from working less hours a week, our readers over 40 should definitely consider cutting their work down to three days per week, if possible.

This might seem like a drastic change to make depending on your current workload, but one study reveals why people over 40 should cut down on hours spent working. We’ll discuss more of the details of said study in the article below.

If You’re Over 40, You Should Only Work 3 Days Per Week. Here’s Why…

A recent study done by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that, while the cognitive performance of people over 40 improved with up to 25 hours of work per week, any more than that caused a decline in performance and an increase in fatigue and stress. 

Researchers invited 3,500 women and 3,000 men over 40 years old to participate in the study, and made them take cognitive function tests while working to monitor their performance.

Overall, they found that those working 25 hours or less per week performed best, while those working 55 hours a week or more showed worse cognitive impairment than even the retired or unemployed participants in the study.

The researchers tested the participants based on their ability to read words aloud, recite lists of numbers and match letters and numbers in speed trials, known as the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey (Hilda). One of the authors of the study, Professor Colin McKenzie, said that both ‘thinking’ and ‘knowing’ would be considered in the study. For the ‘knowing’ portion, participants would read aloud, while the ‘thinking’ part dealt more with reasoning skills, memory, and abstract concepts.

While some mental stimulation is necessary, especially as we age, too much of it can actually harm our cognitive functions. Crossword puzzles and other mind exercises can help people retain cognitive abilities, without causing unwanted stress and fatigue.

Professor McKenzie told The Times:

“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 degree of intellectual stimulation may depend on working hours. 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.

We point out that differences in working hours are important for maintaining cognitive functioning in middle-aged and elderly adults. This means that, in middle and older age, working part-time could be effective in maintaining cognitive ability.”

However, the Hilda survey doesn’t take into account the type of work being done, so that could make all the difference when it comes to overall cognitive performance, as well as stress levels.

Professor McKenzie says, “It’s very difficult to identify the causal effects of the type of work on cognitive functions. People may be selected into certain occupations according to their cognitive abilities.”

criticism - work

In general, however, working longer hours in a very demanding job would take a greater toll on cognitive functions and stress than a part-time job with less responsibilities. Sadly, many people over 40 must continue to work long hours due to financial and family obligations. What’s more, most can’t even access retirement funds until their late 60s, and even then, they might still have to keep working to make ends meet.

So, what is the real answer here? Well, it pretty much comes down to your personal situation. If you have the means to do so, then cut down on your work hours and fill your time with other, less stressful ways of keeping your mind healthy. Do crossword puzzles, talk to family often, read books, and find other brain games that you enjoy doing.

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