It seems that the older we get our work becomes a double edged sword; working is good for cognitive function– keeping our mind busy and those neurons firing- but working more than 30 hours a week, in the fourth decade of life, can also cause our performance to decline. 1


A recent study by experts at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research looked at 3500 female and 3000 males subjects at the ages of 40+. Using the Household Income and Labour Dynamics test, scientists measured whether participants were “able to read words aloud, match letters and numbers in speed trials and recite lists of numbers.”2While the subjects did these cognitive function tests, their work performance was being monitored.

“While a certain degree of intellectual stimulation is believed to benefit the retaining of cognitive function in later age, with brain puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku who preserve brain capacity in older persons, excessive stimulation has the opposite effect.”3

This is important to note, especially given that many countries plan to raise the retirement age.

Professor Colin McKenzie of the University of Melbourne, author of the test, believes that part-time work might be beneficial because it preserves brain function at middle and older age but more study is needed because his test doesn’t take into account the type of work (the idea that work that brings you joy or fulfillment wouldn’t cause further stress) someone might do.


He says, “Working full time – over 40 hours a week –  is still better than no work in terms of maintaining cognitive function, but it is not maximizing the potential effects of work.”4

This research is new and more study needs to be done, however, what do you think? If you are in your fourth or more decade of life, do you feel like you are less productive than you were? Do your simple work routines now seem to stress you out more than when you were younger?


Sources and References

  1. Science Punch, June 16, 2017.
  2. Science Punch, June 16, 2017.
  3. Science Punch, June 16, 2017.
  4. Science Punch, June 16, 2017.