Hard Workers Face Cognitive Decline, Dementia Risk
A study led by Finnish researchers analyzed over 2,200 British civil servants, and found that those who worked more than 55 hours per week had poorer mental skills compared to those who worked a standard week.
Lead researcher Dr Marianna Virtanen, from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said: "The disadvantages of overtime work should be taken seriously."
It is not known why working long hours might have an adverse effect on the brain.
However, the researchers say key factors could include increased sleeping problems, depression, an unhealthy lifestyle and a raised risk of cardiovascular disease, possibly linked to stress.
The workers who participated in the study underwent five cognitive tests, measuring things like reasoning and vocabulary. The longer the working week was, the worse the results turned out to be for the individual. These employees were noted to have shorter sleeping hours, higher rates of depression and consumed more alcohol when compared to workers with standard work week hours.
Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in workplace stress at the University of Lancaster, said it had been long established that consistently working long hours was bad for general health, and now this study suggested it was also bad for mental functioning.
He said: "This should say to employers that insisting people work long hours is actually not good for your business, and that there is a business case for making sure people have a good work-life balance.
"But my worry is that in a recession people will actually work longer hours. There will be a culture of "presenteeism" - people will go to work even if they are ill because they want to show commitment, and make sure they are not the next to be made redundant."