People with a permanent job usuallly work 40 hours a week, sometimes even more depending on the demand of the job, leaving many of them exhausted. For people aged 40 years and above, working beyond 25 hours or three days a week could negatively affect their cognitive ability, research says.

A study conducted by researchers from Keio University, Japan showed that middle aged working people might acquire potential damage on their cognitive ability from working long 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," said researchers.

Researchers Shinya Kajitani, Colin McKenzie and Kei Sakata tested 6500 participants' memory span and cerebral dysfunction and found out that they were working positively for 25 hours on a weekly basis.

The study, published in the Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series, had 3,000 men and 3,500 women go through a wide range of cognitive tests, including reciting a series of numbers backwards and reading misspelled words.

The results of the test showed that those who worked less or part-time got the highest score, and those who worked longer hours had the lowest test score and were likely to feel stressed.

The researchers suggest that middle-aged working professionals should get a part-time job.

"People in old age could maintain their cognitive ability by working in a part-time job that requires them to work around 20-30 hours per week," said researchers.

Part-time work puts stress and brain stimulation levels in check. It also helps balance one's professional and personal life.

The study's findings also suggest a better way of dealing with dilemmas of retirement.

In other countries such as the United States, the required age to receive pension is delayed, which means employees need to continue working until the later stage of their lives. This means that mid-aged people and above will have a prolonged exposure to stress.

While another study showed early retirement may boost one's health but could cause clinical depression. The findings of the Institute of Economic Affairs showed that those who retired early are prone to clinical depression by 40 percent and an increased risk of acquiring physical disorders by 60 percent.

Indeed, this recent Melbourne study suggesting that middle-aged people should work part-time offers a good solution to averting retirement anxieties and being overworked. 

Photo: Dan Foy | Flickr

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