EatLiveGlow claims that

Recent research by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that, whilst working up to 30 hours a week is good for cognitive function in the over 40s, any more than that causes performance to deteriorate.

People Over 40 Should Only Work 3 Days A Week, Experts Claim

Is this reporting correctly the finding? Is this consistent with other evidence on the matter? Does working over 30 hours a week cause and not simply correlate with impaired performance?

  • 33
    The title says "3 days per week", the body "30 hours per week". Which one is it? Or are you implying 10 hour workdays? that's far longer than usual in most work cultures.
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 14:14
  • 29
    Definitely true. It should probably include people under 40 as well. Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 15:06
  • 6
    Does this study factor in the "long commute" on public transport - during which time my brain turns to mush!?
    – MrWhite
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 15:48
  • 3
    @w3d as it turns out, yes.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 17:39
  • 8
    I think people over 40 should not work at all, and people under 40 should support them in luxury. Guess how old I am?
    – GEdgar
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


The study seems unreliable to me but they do claim that.

For working hours up to around 25 hours a week, an increase in working hours has a positive impact on cognitive functioning. However, when working hours exceed 25 hours per week, an increase in working hours has a negative impact on cognition.

However, I question the study's reliability

The copy from the official site is a draft published in February 2016, but that does not include any actual data (UPDATE: the data is after the list of citation at the end of the PDF). It looks like a pre-print, and it is not published in a major journal or peer-reviewed, as far as I can tell.

Furthermore, it seems to me the model they are using to fit the data and deduct causation is obviously lacking. Here is what they use:

enter image description here

Which basically means they don't look if the correlation is different across some (IMO) absolutely significant factors such as mental health, job type and job satisfaction.

They say so explicitly

These variables are designed to capture the factors which impact on the labor supply of the respondent, but not on their cognitive functioning.

and even add a disclaimer

The validity of the variables used to generate exclusion restrictions needs to be investigated in future research.

This is absurd given that they open their paper claiming that stress and fatigue are the cause of reduced cognitive ability

Work can be a double edged sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time, long working hours and certain types of tasks can cause fatigue and stress which potentially damage cognitive functions.

In other words, assuming this passes peer review, it would not show anything more that no matter the job, stress level and how much you hate it, working up to 30 hours is still better than not working in terms of cognitive fitness. I would not trust this paper to show that over that threshold things get worse, because of the lack of study on the confounding factors.

Finally, there seem to be very few studies like this, which might be a reason why they chose this bizarre (to me) methodology:

There are number of studies which examine the effects of the quality of work (job type and job task) on cognitive functioning (Schooler et al., 1999; Bosma et al., 2003; Potter et al., 2008; Finkel et al., 2009; Marquié et al., 2010; Smart et al., 2014).

However, there seem to be extremely few studies discussing the impact of the quantity of work (working hours) on cognitive functioning

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jamiec
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 8:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .