In a recent study, working long hours was associated with decreased cognitive function in middle-aged adults.
The study examined 2,214 middle-aged British civil servants who were working full-time. The researchers performed various tests to measure the participants' cognitive function at the time of study enrollment (1997-1999) and again at follow up (2002-2004).
According to the authors, working more than 55 hours a week was linked with poorer mental skills, including impaired short-term memory and recall, compared to those who worked a standard 40 hours. Individuals who worked the most hours experienced the greatest decline in cognitive function.
These results were similar after adjusting for potential confounding factors, including age, gender, marital status, education, occupation, income, physical diseases, psychosocial factors, sleep disturbances and health-risk behaviors.
In addition, participants who worked overtime slept fewer hours, reported more symptoms of depression and drank more alcohol than those who worked just 40 hours.
The potential mechanism for these negative effects remains unknown. It is also unclear if the effects may be long-term. Additional research is warranted in this area.
For more information about cognitive decline, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions database.