Looks like shorter working weeks could be key for overall better wellbeing. Tell me something I don’t know.
Sometimes life can feel all work and no play.
The grind, an often ongoing slog of deadlines, emails, meetings – you name it, plus the monotony of WFH, can leave you feeling oh so drained, with little room for your own wellbeing and personal endeavours.
2016 research by the University of Melbourne found that if you’re over 40, turns out that working can be doing more harm than good to your memory recall and enviable quick wit, depending on how much you work.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
There is such thing as working too hard
The Australian study of about 3000 male and 3500 female middle aged workers found that while up to 25 hours per week of work improved cognition function, anything more than this negatively affected the cognitive function of both male and female participants.
The study highlighted that many cultures around the world work wayyy into retirement age, as many nations have increased the age at which one can receive pension payments. This is not ideal.
“A double edged sword”
Although many have argued that this can be beneficial in keeping the brain trained and fit, the study likens work to “a double edged sword”.
“[Work] it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time, long working hours and certain types of tasks can cause fatigue and stress which potentially damage cognitive functions.”
The, at times pesky thing that is your job (and the length of your hours), can sometimes cause physical or psychological stress – or even both. This stress can then affect cognitive functioning, and chronic stress can unfortunately lead to mental illness, the study notes.
So, while work can be great tool of mental exercise in keeping your mind sharp, this positive effect can be outshone by the “…mental and physical stress associated with long labor hours”.
What is the optimal amount of hours?
So then, what the is the optimal amount of working hours per week?
Working up to 25-30 hours a week for men, and up to 22-27 hours for women was found to have positive impacts on the cognitive function of participants, based on memory span and cerebral dysfunction test results.
It seems then that about 25 seems to be the magic number.
The study finds that for workers in the middle aged and older age brackets, part-time work could be significant in maintaining wellbeing and cognitive functioning.
In other words, looks like it’s time to follow suit of Dutch and adopt AT LEAST a three day weekend.
Mental health professionals are available 24/7 at the beyondblue Support Service – 1300 22 46 36 or via beyondblue.org.au/get-support for online chat(3pm-12am AEST) or email response.