Many countries, including Singapore, are encouraging the seniors to live a productive life. If they still want and capable to work, they should not be ostracized by the society. Other countries raised the age of retirement as a strategy of the government to cut down expenses on pensions.
No matter what, seniors should work if they really want so they still feel they can contribute to the society and that will make them happier. It feels good to earn some money and contribute. However, there is a new study that reveals the potential damaging effects on the brain of the people working after 40.
There is a recent study published by University of Melbourne. The study said that working for 40 hours a week at 40 years old can have an effect on the brain – it can impair cognitive function. According to the authors, when working, it can stimulate the brain. If the brain is always stimulated, it can help sustain cognitive functions especially for elderly workers.
However, if the elderly worked long hours, it can cause physical and psychological stress. These can in turn damage cognitive functioning. The study revealed that people over 40 years old who laboured for more than 25 hours saw decline in their cognitive functions while those who worked below 25 years old experienced the opposite.
The study also found out that male respondents that worked up to 25 to 30 hours a week have decreased cognition. While women respondents that worked 22 to 27 hours scored better in terms of cognition. After 30 hours (for male respondents) and 27 (for female respondents), work had a damaging effect. One of the study’s authors, Colin McKenzie, said that work is a double-edged sword. It can indeed fuel brain activity but simultaneously long hours can cause stress and fatigue which can impair cognition.
The study maximized the data gathered by Australia’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics survey. The survey effectively asked the respondents about their finances, labour, family and other well-being. There were 3 sets when it comes to cognitive ability – Backward Digit Span (BDS), Symbol Digit Modalities (SDM) and reading test.
BDS is a memory test that asked respondents to read aloud a sequence of single-digit numbers then recap them in inverse order. SDM test on the other hand will test the respondent’s motor speed, attention and visual scanning by matching the symbols to the numbers through printed answer keys. The adult reading test asked the respondents to read correctly the twenty irregularly spelled words.