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Working long hours could be harmful to the brain

Published on October 21, 2014 at 14:42 / Updated on October 10, 2019 at 18:30

It seems that workaholics may be at increased risk of suffering from mental decline and possibly dementia. Researchers came to that conclusion after analyzing the results of 2,200 civil servants who underwent five mental function tests.

The study found that the employees that did the most overtime had the lowest scores in two of the five tests, namely those assessing reasoning and vocabulary recall. The effects of overstress appear cumulative: the longer the workweek was, the worse the test results were. Employees who worked long hours also got less sleep, reported more symptoms of depression and used more alcohol than participants who worked “normal” workweeks.

It is not yet known why long work hours affect the brain this way. It may be, however, that cognitive abilities are adversely affected by a combination of factors stemming from long work days (e.g. sleeping problems, depression and an unhealthy lifestyle, all possibly linked to stress).

It has long been established that working too much takes its toll on general health. This study suggests that being a workaholic may also be harmful to mental functioning. These observations imply that in the long run, employers won’t profit from encouraging their employees to work overtime on a regular basis. Reaching a good work-life balance could therefore have long-term benefits for both employees and employers.

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