Hey, Older Workers: Raise Your Hand If Too Much Work Makes You Dumber

A study cited by the BBC claims that too much work makes you dumber. That’s right, working too many hours after a certain age could be bad for our brains … maybe.

If you’re over 40, working more than 25 hours of work a week could be impairing your intelligence, according to a study released in February by researchers for the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Australia. The team conducted reading, pattern and memory tests in more than 6,000 workers aged over 40, to see how the number of hours worked each week affects a person’s cognitive ability.

Working 25 hours a week (part time or three days a week) was the optimum amount of time spent working a week for cognitive functioning, while working less than that was detrimental to the agility of the brain for both men and women, the study found.

Oh, if only everyone could use such excuses to take the afternoon off.

So why is 40 the magic number?

According to (lead researcher Colin) McKenzie, our ‘fluid intelligence,’ which is how well we process information, starts declining around the age of 20 and ‘crystallized 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.

Of course, while it’s unlikely a person at 40 years of age is going to call it a day during the peak of his or her career and head to part-time service, take heart — lower performance over 40 is not an across-the-board truth. Getting the right amount of sleep, mixing up the routine, and enjoying the type of work you do are all elements that can prolong the ability to perform at optimal levels.