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全职工作对大脑有害吗?

Is full-time work bad for our brains?
全职工作对大脑有害吗?

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

如果你年过40,千万不要在工作了一个星期后测试IQ,否则你会失望的。

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.

墨尔本应用经济和社会研究所今年2月发表的最新研究显示,如果你年过40,那么每周工作时间超过25小时就会有损智力。该团队对6,000多名年过40的员工展开了测试,内容涉及阅读、图像和记忆等内容,希望借此了解每周工作的时间长度将如何影响一个人的认知能力。

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.

对于认知能力来说,每周工作25小时(兼职工作或每周3天的全职工作)是比较理想的时间长度。该研究发现,如果少于这一时间,大脑的灵活性就将受到影响,无论男女都不例外。

“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.

“工作可以刺激大脑活动,还可以维持年龄较大员工的认知能力,正所谓‘用则进,不用则废’”东京庆应义塾大学经济学教授、这项调查的首席研究员科林·麦肯泽(Colin McKenzie)说。

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

“但与此同时,过长时间的工作也会引发疲倦,导致身心紧张,有可能破坏认知功能。”

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

但40岁为何成为了一个转折点呢?

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.

麦肯泽表示,我们的“流动智力”(也就是我们处理信息的能力)大概从20岁左右开始衰退,而“晶体智力”(我们使用技巧、知识和经验的能力)在30岁以后开始衰退。麦肯泽表示,多数人到了40岁时,在智力测验、图像识别和心理敏捷性训练等方面的表现都会降低。

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.

由于许多国家已经提高了退休年龄,延长了养老金的领取时间,所以麦肯泽针对认知疲倦的最新发现显得十分重要。

“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.

“工作是把双刃剑,它虽然能刺激大脑活动,但与此同时,长时间的工作和某些类型的任务却会引发疲倦和紧张,从而破坏认知能力。”他说。

The science behind it

科学原理


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.

麦肯泽的发现表明,尽管现在的经济迫使我们必须比前几代人工作更长时间,但从生物学和情绪的角度来看,人类的心智或许难以在40岁之后应对每周5天,每天朝九晚五的压力和重复性工作。

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.

之前的研究显示,各个年龄段的员工超时工作后都会遭遇慢性压力、认知受损和心理疾病。波士顿大学公共卫生学院1996年进行的一项研究表明,超时工作对汽车行业从业人员(例如组装线上的工人)的心理健康产生了负面影响。

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.

麦肯泽的研究则有所差异:他的团队发现,这类健康和认知问题发生的门槛远低于之前的想象——换句话说,对于年过40的人来说,不必超时工作,只需按照常规时间工作一个星期便会遭遇这些问题。

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.

事实上,神经学研究已经记录了很多由紧张情绪产生的负面影响。紧张情绪对认知功能的影响主要通过激素来实现,尤其是类固醇激素和应激激素皮质醇,后者可以在大脑中影响短期记忆、注意力、抑制力和逻辑思维。

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

但40岁之所以成为关键的转折点,似乎还受到了其他因素的影响。

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.

麦肯泽的团队目前正在研究他们的结论背后的影响因素,包括所谓的“夹心层”——到了这个年龄阶段的成年人,除了要从事全职工作外,至少还要照顾一个人,可能是年幼的孩子,也可能是年迈的父母。

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.

这便会在常规工作之外制造额外的任务,导致人们难以获得休息时间。根据美国护理联盟(National Alliance for Caregiving)去年进行的一项调查,美国目前典型的护理者是49岁的在职女性,照顾的对象则是69岁的老年女性——她们由于存在长期健康问题而不得不接受别人的照料。平均而言,典型的护理者处于这种生活状态已经4年,需要每周抽出24.4个小时护理他人,另外还要肩负工作和家庭责任。

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”.

睡眠质量也在一定程度上决定了人们能否忍受整整一周的工作。直到最近,短时间的睡眠还是成功人士引以为豪的事情。英国前首相玛格丽特·撒切尔(Margaret Thatcher)曾经表示,她每天晚上只睡4个小时——但资料片曾经记录下她白天打盹的画面。Huffington Post总编辑阿利安娜·赫芬顿(Arianna Huffington)也曾经自称每晚只睡5个小时,直到她意识到这样对身体健康不利——她现在反而将睡眠剥夺称做“新式吸烟”。

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.

但一个人究竟应该保持多长时间的睡眠呢?美国国家睡眠基金会建议26岁以上的人每晚至少睡7小时。

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.

佛罗里达州立大学教授卡尔·埃里克森(Karl Ericsson)表示,学习和记忆都要依靠充分的睡眠和休息。麦肯泽的研究与埃里克森的说法不谋而合。

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

“充分的睡眠对于获得优异的工作表现至关重要。”埃里克森说。

One size doesn’t fit all

因人而异


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麦肯泽的结论:每周工作40小时不利于获得优异的工作表现。但埃里克森的研究并没有区分不同年龄段,而是着眼于表现优异的人每天和每周的最佳工作时长。

“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.

“我们发现,表现优异者每周工作时间在21至35小时之间,但每天不超过3至5小时。”埃里克森说。

“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.”

“由于能够完全自由地安排工作时间,这些人每周工作的总时间不会超过这个数字,表明他们认为这样的工作时长可以带来最理想的效果。”

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,即便将每周的工作时间压缩到40小时以内可能在一定程度上提升业绩,但对于很多需要依靠工作收入来生存的人而言,这并不是一种可行的方案。很多年过40的人也不敢奢望每周的工作时间少于40小时,他们认为这种模式可以为其提供必要的刺激,而相关研究则有夸大其词的嫌疑。

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岁的理查德·萨里斯伯里(Richard Salisbury)居住在澳大利亚悉尼北部的蓝山(Blue Mountains),他不仅为自己打工,还在一些企业担任IT经理,但他并不认同这种“少即是多”的理论。
 

睡眠时间过少会影响工作表现

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

“事实上,随着我的经验逐步丰富或年龄逐步增长,我发现自己在支配时间时显得更加游刃有余。”萨里斯伯里说。

“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.”

“我发现25小时的分水岭过于夸张。”他说,“我认识的绝大多数人都不会因为每周工作35或45个小时而导致认知能力受到明显影响。”

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岁的本尼·伊万斯(Penny Evans)在伦敦的一家慈善组织担任政策顾问,她每周工作4天,但之前也曾经在这家慈善组织每周工作25小时。谈到每周工作3天(或者总共25小时)还是4天对提升业绩、减缓焦虑最为有利时,她则显得不够坚定。

“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天的确能够在工作和生活之间实现很好的平衡,尤其是当你家里有孩子要照料,但却有可能因此在职场被边缘化时。而每周4天的工作意味着我可以与团队展开全面的接触,但我还可以额外抽出一天时间来处理其他事情。”

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.

伊万斯认为,关键是具备足够的灵活性。她表示,由于整个行业已经普遍认为员工应该在18:00离开公司,所以她面临的工作压力在可控范围内。

“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.”

“但具体到每周工作的时长,却很难给出确切答案。当我还是个不必操心其他事情的年轻人时,我似乎会全身心铺在工作。但由于现在的生活节奏极快,到处充斥着电子邮件和社交媒体,所以我不确定现在再这样做会是什么感受。”

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.

在剑桥大学去年评选的英国最健康公司中(不包括非政府组织),体育用品、制药和IT企业位居前列。这些公司都允许员工离开办公桌,从而获得保持身体健康的机会。例如,某些公司可以通过灵活的时间安排让员工提前下班,而Sweaty Betty还会在午休时间提供健身课。

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.

但剑桥大学纽纳姆学院院长兼英国最健康公司顾问团主席卡罗尔·布莱克(Carol Black)并不确定,年龄较大的员工是否需要减少每周的工作时间才能获得良好的工作表现。

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.”

在她看来:“最重要的在于你的工作必须是一份‘好工作’。只要工作好,无论是全职还是兼职都无关紧要。”
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