Driving More Than Two Hours Harmful to Brain: Study Finds

As our world becomes more integrated and societies everywhere share in the same problems of growth and urbanizing populations, sometimes studies from overseas in other countries can have profound implications for life here in little ol' Mississauga and the GTA.

According to a study from the University of Leicester, if you're driving for more than two hours a day, you risk decreasing your intelligence.

"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,” says Kishan Bakrania, a medical epidemiologist at the University of Leicester.

The study found that people who drove more than two to three hours a day typically had lower brainpower at the start of the study, which kept on declining throughout—at a faster rate than those who did little or no driving. You may be able to attest from personal experience as a commuter. There are long moments when you're stuck in traffic and you just feel like nodding off and going to sleep. When you finally get to the office, there may be moments when you're physically drained and your mind wanders; that may be a result of the effects on the brain from having to spend a few hours on the road getting to work and back home again.

You can read the details of the full report here.

But not only did the UK report find driving for two hours had an effect on your brain, so, too did watching TV and being on the computer. A similar effect was discovered from watching more than three hours of TV a day. "Cognitive decline is measurable over five years because it can happen fast in middle-aged and older people", said Bakrania. "This is associated with lifestyle factors such as smoking and bad diet....and now with time spent driving".

However, if you spend more time on the computer for work or playing games, the study found that that actually increased brain functions. "Cognitive skills were boosted in people who used computers up to two to three hours a day,"Bakrania said. "When watching TV, your brain is less active but using a computer is stimulating."

I found the results regarding TV and computer use suprising; are they not by most definitions the same? Both involve sitting in front of a screen, and you would think with the computer—since a person would most likely be sitting closer—it would be more negatively affecting one's brain. I mean if you're watching Netflix, which has replaced watching TV for a number of people in this day and age, then isn't that the same as watching television?

Playing computer games, while undoubtedly frowned upon by parents, may actually be beneficial to stimulating the minds of children and young adults in terms of enhancing their cognitive abilities. If you're into one of those multi-player, role playing games that actually allow you to interact and talk to other players online, then you're strategizing, planning, and doing things that stimulate activity within your brain.

Should this be an endorsement for more people to indulge in online gaming? Hardly, but perhaps the activity should not be viewed with such stigma as an anti-social activity as in the past.

I wonder if those who don't drive but do need to take two hours or more commuting via various modes of public transit are affected the same way. You may not be driving yourself, but it could get stressful on the mind if you're one of those people that have to transfer three buses to get to your workplace. But the flip side of the coin is that all that movement is rather good stimulation for your brain as you're focused on making sure you're getting on the right bus or taking the properly scheduled train.

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