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全職工作對大腦有害嗎?

Is full-time work bad for our brains?
全職工作對大腦有害嗎?

Don’t do an IQ test after a full week’s work if you are 40 years or older. You could be disappointed.

如果你年過40,千萬不要在工作了一個星期后測試IQ,否則你會失望的。

If you’re over 40, working more than 25 hours of work a week could be impairing your intelligence, according to a study released in February by researchers for the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Australia. The team conducted reading, pattern and memory tests in more than 6,000 workers aged over 40, to see how the number of hours worked each week affects a person’s cognitive ability.

墨爾本應用經濟和社會研究所今年2月發表的最新研究顯示,如果你年過40,那么每周工作時間超過25小時就會有損智力。該團隊對6,000多名年過40的員工展開了測試,內容涉及閱讀、圖像和記憶等內容,希望借此了解每周工作的時間長度將如何影響一個人的認知能力。

Working 25 hours a week (part time or three days a week) was the optimum amount of time spent working a week for cognitive functioning, while working less than that was detrimental to the agility of the brain for both men and women, the study found.

對于認知能力來說,每周工作25小時(兼職工作或每周3天的全職工作)是比較理想的時間長度。該研究發現,如果少于這一時間,大腦的靈活性就將受到影響,無論男女都不例外。

“Work can stimulate brain activity and can help maintain cognitive functions for elderly workers, the ‘lose it or use it hypothesis’,” said lead researcher Colin McKenzie, a professor of economics at Keio University in Tokyo.

“工作可以刺激大腦活動,還可以維持年齡較大員工的認知能力,正所謂‘用則進,不用則廢’”東京慶應義塾大學經濟學教授、這項調查的首席研究員科林·麥肯澤(Colin McKenzie)說。

“But at the same time, excessively long working hours can cause fatigue and physical and/or psychological stress, which potentially damage cognitive functioning.”

“但與此同時,過長時間的工作也會引發疲倦,導致身心緊張,有可能破壞認知功能。”

But why is age 40 the turning point for the mind?

但40歲為何成為了一個轉折點呢?

According to McKenzie, our “fluid intelligence”, which is how well we process information, starts declining around the age of 20 and “crystallised intelligence”, or the ability to use skills, knowledge and experience starts decreasing after 30 years of age. McKenzie said that by age 40, most people perform less well at memory tests, pattern recognition and mental agility exercises.

麥肯澤表示,我們的“流動智力”(也就是我們處理信息的能力)大概從20歲左右開始衰退,而“晶體智力”(我們使用技巧、知識和經驗的能力)在30歲以后開始衰退。麥肯澤表示,多數人到了40歲時,在智力測驗、圖像識別和心理敏捷性訓練等方面的表現都會降低。

As many countries have already increased their retirement ages, delaying when people are eligible to start receiving pension payments, McKenzie’s latest findings on cognitive fatigue are important.

由于許多國家已經提高了退休年齡,延長了養老金的領取時間,所以麥肯澤針對認知疲倦的最新發現顯得十分重要。

“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 cognition,” he said.

“工作是把雙刃劍,它雖然能刺激大腦活動,但與此同時,長時間的工作和某些類型的任務卻會引發疲倦和緊張,從而破壞認知能力。”他說。

The science behind it

科學原理


McKenzie’s findings suggest that although economics may now be forcing us to work much longer than in previous generations, biologically and emotionally our minds may not be designed for the stress and repetition of working nine-to-five, five days a week when we are over 40.

麥肯澤的發現表明,盡管現在的經濟迫使我們必須比前幾代人工作更長時間,但從生物學和情緒的角度來看,人類的心智或許難以在40歲之后應對每周5天,每天朝九晚五的壓力和重復性工作。

Previous studies have shown that workers of various ages doing overtime can suffer chronic stress, cognitive impairment and also mental illness. One 1996 study from the Boston University School of Public Health indicated that overtime work had adverse effects on the mental health of employees in the automobile industry, such as on the assembly line in a factory.

之前的研究顯示,各個年齡段的員工超時工作后都會遭遇慢性壓力、認知受損和心理疾病。波士頓大學公共衛生學院1996年進行的一項研究表明,超時工作對汽車行業從業人員(例如組裝線上的工人)的心理健康產生了負面影響。

McKenzie’s research differs in that his team has found that such health and cognitive issues can occur at a much lower threshold than previously thought — that is, in people over 40 working a regular week, rather than doing overtime.

麥肯澤的研究則有所差異:他的團隊發現,這類健康和認知問題發生的門檻遠低于之前的想象——換句話說,對于年過40的人來說,不必超時工作,只需按照常規時間工作一個星期便會遭遇這些問題。

The negative effects of stress on the mind are well-documented in neurological research. Stress affects cognitive functioning primarily through hormones, in particular, steroid hormones and the stress hormone, cortisol, in the brain which in turn can affect short-term memory, concentration, inhibition and rational thought.

事實上,神經學研究已經記錄了很多由緊張情緒產生的負面影響。緊張情緒對認知功能的影響主要通過激素來實現,尤其是類固醇激素和應激激素皮質醇,后者可以在大腦中影響短期記憶、注意力、抑制力和邏輯思維。

But there may be other factors at play as to why 40 seems to be a critical turning point.

但40歲之所以成為關鍵的轉折點,似乎還受到了其他因素的影響。

McKenzie’s team is now looking into the driving factors behind their research such as the “sandwich years” when many adults have at least one person to look after, a child or an elderly parent, on top of working full-time.

麥肯澤的團隊目前正在研究他們的結論背后的影響因素,包括所謂的“夾心層”——到了這個年齡階段的成年人,除了要從事全職工作外,至少還要照顧一個人,可能是年幼的孩子,也可能是年邁的父母。

That creates a job on top of a job, where the person rarely gets a break. According to the US National Alliance for Caregiving in a survey conducted last year a typical caregiver in the US is a 49-year-old employed female, currently caring for a 69-year-old female relative who needs care because of a long-term physical condition. She has been providing care for four years on average, spending 24.4 hours a week in a care role, on top of her work and other family responsibilities.

這便會在常規工作之外制造額外的任務,導致人們難以獲得休息時間。根據美國護理聯盟(National Alliance for Caregiving)去年進行的一項調查,美國目前典型的護理者是49歲的在職女性,照顧的對象則是69歲的老年女性——她們由于存在長期健康問題而不得不接受別人的照料。平均而言,典型的護理者處于這種生活狀態已經4年,需要每周抽出24.4個小時護理他人,另外還要肩負工作和家庭責任。

The sleep factor

睡眠因素


Sleep also plays a role in being able to endure a full week of work. Until recently, high achievers often prided themselves on getting very little sleep. Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used to say she could work effectively on only four hours sleep a night — though archive video footage captures her snoozing during the day. Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the Huffington Post, claimed too she used to sleep around five hours a night until she realised it was bad for her health, now calling  sleep deprivation the “new smoking”.

睡眠質量也在一定程度上決定了人們能否忍受整整一周的工作。直到最近,短時間的睡眠還是成功人士引以為豪的事情。英國前首相瑪格麗特·撒切爾(Margaret Thatcher)曾經表示,她每天晚上只睡4個小時——但資料片曾經記錄下她白天打盹的畫面。Huffington Post總編輯阿利安娜·赫芬頓(Arianna Huffington)也曾經自稱每晚只睡5個小時,直到她意識到這樣對身體健康不利——她現在反而將睡眠剝奪稱做“新式吸煙”。

But how much sleep should one get? The US National Sleep Foundation recommends more than seven hours sleep a night for people over 26 years.

但一個人究竟應該保持多長時間的睡眠呢?美國國家睡眠基金會建議26歲以上的人每晚至少睡7小時。

Learning and memory depend on sleep and recreation, according to Karl Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University. McKenzie’s research isn’t dissimilar to Ericsson’s.

佛羅里達州立大學教授卡爾·埃里克森(Karl Ericsson)表示,學習和記憶都要依靠充分的睡眠和休息。麥肯澤的研究與埃里克森的說法不謀而合。

“Restful sleep is critical to high levels of performance,” Ericsson said.

“充分的睡眠對于獲得優異的工作表現至關重要。”埃里克森說。

One size doesn’t fit all

因人而異


Ericsson’s research also supports McKenzie’s premise that a 40-hour week isn’t optimal for high performance. Ericsson’s research, however, isn’t age specific but rather looks at the total number of hours optimal per day, each week, for high performance.

埃里克森的研究也支持了麥肯澤的結論:每周工作40小時不利于獲得優異的工作表現。但埃里克森的研究并沒有區分不同年齡段,而是著眼于表現優異的人每天和每周的最佳工作時長。

“We found that expert performers engaged in practice for 21-35 hours per week but no more than three to five hours per day,” Ericsson said.

“我們發現,表現優異者每周工作時間在21至35小時之間,但每天不超過3至5小時。”埃里克森說。

“Under complete freedom to work, these individuals did not spend more than those weekly totals, suggesting that this amount of effort was judged to be optimal for them.”

“由于能夠完全自由地安排工作時間,這些人每周工作的總時間不會超過這個數字,表明他們認為這樣的工作時長可以帶來最理想的效果。”

A need to work

工作需要


It’s all well and good, however, to discuss how much better we would be if we worked less than a 40-hour week in an office, but for many people who need the income to survive, it’s not a viable financial option. Many over 40s also wouldn’t dream of working less than a 40-hour week, given the option, as they say it gives them a necessary stimulus, calling the research overblown.

然而,即便將每周的工作時間壓縮到40小時以內可能在一定程度上提升業績,但對于很多需要依靠工作收入來生存的人而言,這并不是一種可行的方案。很多年過40的人也不敢奢望每周的工作時間少于40小時,他們認為這種模式可以為其提供必要的刺激,而相關研究則有夸大其詞的嫌疑。

Richard Salisbury, age 58, who lives in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney in Australia is one of them. Having worked both part time and full time for himself and for companies in-house as an information technology manager, he rejects the notion that less is more.

58歲的理查德·薩里斯伯里(Richard Salisbury)居住在澳大利亞悉尼北部的藍山(Blue Mountains),他不僅為自己打工,還在一些企業擔任IT經理,但他并不認同這種“少即是多”的理論。
 

睡眠時間過少會影響工作表現

“In fact I found that I dealt with demands on my time more easily as I gained experience or just became older,” Salisbury said.

“事實上,隨著我的經驗逐步豐富或年齡逐步增長,我發現自己在支配時間時顯得更加游刃有余。”薩里斯伯里說。

“I find the idea of a 25-hour threshold more than novel,” he said. “The vast majority of people with whom I worked had no noticeable impact on their cognitive ability by doing a 35- or 40-hour week.”

“我發現25小時的分水嶺過于夸張。”他說,“我認識的絕大多數人都不會因為每周工作35或45個小時而導致認知能力受到明顯影響。”

Penny Evans, a 50-year-old policy adviser at a charity in London, works four days a week now but used to work 25 hours a week at the same charity, is of two minds as to whether three days (25 hours a week) or four days a week is best for performance and anxiety.

50歲的本尼·伊萬斯(Penny Evans)在倫敦的一家慈善組織擔任政策顧問,她每周工作4天,但之前也曾經在這家慈善組織每周工作25小時。談到每周工作3天(或者總共25小時)還是4天對提升業績、減緩焦慮最為有利時,她則顯得不夠堅定。

“Three days a week is great for work-life balance, especially when you have children at home but you are likely to fall out of touch and possibly sidelined. Four days a week means I feel pretty much fully connected to my team but I have an extra day off that helps me deal with other responsibilities.”

“一周工作3天的確能夠在工作和生活之間實現很好的平衡,尤其是當你家里有孩子要照料,但卻有可能因此在職場被邊緣化時。而每周4天的工作意味著我可以與團隊展開全面的接觸,但我還可以額外抽出一天時間來處理其他事情。”

The key, Evans said, is having flexibility. The stress of her job is manageable, she said, helped by fairly widespread acceptance in the sector that employees should leave the office by 18:00.

伊萬斯認為,關鍵是具備足夠的靈活性。她表示,由于整個行業已經普遍認為員工應該在18:00離開公司,所以她面臨的工作壓力在可控范圍內。

“But in terms of the ideal amount of hours at work each week, it is difficult to say. When young and wholly committed with minimal other responsibilities, I seemed to thrive on working flat out but not sure how that would feel nowadays with everything so incredibly fast with email and social media.”

“但具體到每周工作的時長,卻很難給出確切答案。當我還是個不必操心其他事情的年輕人時,我似乎會全身心鋪在工作。但由于現在的生活節奏極快,到處充斥著電子郵件和社交媒體,所以我不確定現在再這樣做會是什么感受。”

Healthy work

健康的工作


In last year’s Britain’s Healthiest Company awards, that were supported by the University of Cambridge in the UK (which didn’t include NGOs), sports goods, pharmaceutical and IT companies that topped the list for healthiest companies. All allowed time away from the desk and the opportunity to stay physically healthy. For example, flexible hours at some of these companies allow employees to leave work early and some like Sweaty Betty provide exercise classes at lunchtime.

在劍橋大學去年評選的英國最健康公司中(不包括非政府組織),體育用品、制藥和IT企業位居前列。這些公司都允許員工離開辦公桌,從而獲得保持身體健康的機會。例如,某些公司可以通過靈活的時間安排讓員工提前下班,而Sweaty Betty還會在午休時間提供健身課。

But Carol Black, principal of Newnham College, University of Cambridge and chair of the Britain’s Healthiest Company Advisory Group that supports the awards, isn’t so sure that older workers need less contact hours a week to function well.

但劍橋大學紐納姆學院院長兼英國最健康公司顧問團主席卡羅爾·布萊克(Carol Black)并不確定,年齡較大的員工是否需要減少每周的工作時間才能獲得良好的工作表現。

In her view: “The most important thing about work is that it should be ‘good work’.  If it is good, it does not matter whether full-or part-time.”

在她看來:“最重要的在于你的工作必須是一份‘好工作’。只要工作好,無論是全職還是兼職都無關緊要。”
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