Bad news if you have a long commute or if you’re driving for a living! A new study suggests that driving for more than two hours a day steadily reduces one’s intelligence. Hold back on the taxi driver jokes for now, though: another activity may also make you dumber. Can you guess what it is?
A scientific study conducted by the University of Leicester in the UK recently analyzed the lifestyles of more than 500,000 British citizens between the ages of 37 and 73 over a time span of five years. During this period, participants took a number of intelligence and memory tests; and the results showed that the 93,000 people who drove more than two or three hours every day typically had lower brainpower at the beginning of the study, and that it not only kept on declining throughout, but did so at a faster rate than those who spent little or no time behind the wheel.
In case you’re now breathing a smug sigh of relief because you’re not driving: the study also discovered similar findings for people who watch TV for more than three hours a day. These participants also had lower average brainpower at the start of the study, and also saw it decline faster over the five year period.
Kishan Bakrania, a medical epidemiologist working on the study, was quoted as saying: “We know that regularly driving for more than two to three hours a day is bad for your heart. This research suggests it is bad for your brain, too, perhaps because your mind is less active in those hours.” He continued to explain how the study worked: ”Cognitive decline is measurable over five years because it can happen fast in middle-aged and older people. This is associated with lifestyle factors such as smoking and bad diet – and now with time spent driving.”
Driving and watching TV for hours are both bad for your IQ
It’s not all bad news, however: the study also found that using a computer to work or play games increases brain function. According to Mr Bakrania, cognitive skills were boosted in people who used computers up to two or three hours a day. While watching TV, your brain is less active, but playing games can increase brain function and is therefore good for the grey matter between your ears.
You might now be tempted to balance out the cognitive decline of sitting behind the wheel by playing computer games during the daily commute, but that will most likely only lead to a fine under the ADDA, or worse, a crash. Instead, why not try and cycle to work? I recently wrote about this option here and it’s not as crazy an idea as you may think. Not only will it mean less time sitting in traffic, but exercise has long been shown to be good for your body and mind.