Businessman resting at desk (stock image). Credit: © Syda Productions / Adobe Stock
August 1, 2019
Science Daily/Purdue University
Attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees with an unemployment rate that is hovering near a 50-year low is a challenge for companies.
The challenge is made more difficult with more workers reaching retirement age, declining birth rates and fewer replacement workers to fill job openings.
One emerging answer: Get rid of unproductive "busy work" and commit to learning how to effectively design and implement flexible workload arrangements for interested high-potential employees on a career path.
Other countries, such as the Netherlands, have been trying it for years and seeing success, as well as increased gender equality among men and women after the birth of a child, says a Purdue University work-life balance expert.
Reduced-load work is finally gaining a little more traction in the United States, says Ellen Ernst Kossek, the Basil S. Turner Professor at Purdue's Krannert School of Management and research director of Purdue's Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence.
Reduced-load is a flexible form of part-time work, where an individual works with a manager to customize their jobs to reduce workload while still progressing in a career. For instance, a corporate sales manager with a portfolio of 10 products might keep eight, while taking a 20% pay cut and being able to choose to work longer hours four days a week or fewer hours during the traditional five-day work week.
The supervisor and employee work together to determine the duties that add the most value to the organization and then cut low-value tasks or identify tasks that others can cover. Or they can identify legacy tasks that aren't adding much value and should go away.
"We need to jettison our old conceptions of part-time work being low pay or a career dead end, or something relegating one to a secondary mommy or daddy track," Kossek said. "Given that many salaried professional jobs today have ballooned to be up to 50 or 60 hours a week, reduced-load work is desperately needed as a temporary or ongoing career option for workers at all career ages and stages."
The Department of Labor considers full time for hourly paid jobs to be at least 30 hours a week.
"A reduced workload can enable sustainable careers for managers and other professionals," Kossek said. "Yet we see not only hesitancy from organizations to implement it, but also implementation hurdles such as insufficient workload reductions fitting the pay cut and stalled careers often adversely affecting women and caregivers.
"One reason there is hesitancy is managers sometimes think that having someone work less than full-time hours means they are getting less work done. But the reality is many reduced-load workers work more intently and often get as much done as a full-time worker. This is because they enjoy the opportunity to have an interesting job yet still be able to flexible in a way that enables time for other life interests -- from continuing education, to caregiving to community involvement."
Another barrier to implementing reduced-load work is that many current accounting systems primarily use standardized headcount for labor costing, an approach that inadvertently can penalize managers experimenting with workload redesign because many firms make it hard to hire additional staff as a traditional tactic for controlling overhead costs. Yet employers need to move away from counting bodies toward using full-time equivalent costing.
Kossek says it is important to identify which tasks can be integrated with other workers' roles, from current staff to interns or trainees, and which tasks need to be differentiated as unique as part of the reduced-load redesign strategy.
"This enables managers to have more flexibility in organizing tasks and not be penalized for learning how to reallocate workloads or hours for individual talented workers," Kossek said. "Doing so can also develop other team members' knowledge and provide better backup for clients.
"In sum, the concept of reduced-load work requires a new approach to assigning job tasks and a way of thinking about how to manage work and careers. For those employers who consider such a prospect, the rewards can be great in productivity and company morale."
The Purdue work appears in a June edition of the Journal of Vocational Behavior. The study was partially funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Kossek examined reduced-load work by interviewing nearly 100 manager, human resources experts and executives across 20 major leading North American employers across five industries that have been early adopters of reduced workload. She identified work redesign tactics that either reduced or reshuffled workloads.
"Reduced workload work is important to study because it is one of the few flexible work forms that prompt organizations to quantify the parameters of a full-time load and experiment with tactics to actually reduce workloads," Kossek said. "Reduced workload work matters for individuals and societies because being able to reduce one's workload while staying on a career track is an important asset to build careers that are sustainable."
Kossek says reduced workload also keeps more older individuals in the workforce and not seeking retirement as soon or dropping out to care for elderly parents. It also may help keep mothers or fathers of young children or children with special needs in the workforce rather than taking very long leaves of absence or quitting altogether. Reduced-load work can foster retention and prevent burnout. Many reduced-load workers can shift back to full time later in their careers.
Kossek and her team developed a three-stage process of collaborative crafting of reduced-load work: exploration, implementation and career embedding. The third stage involves troubleshooting issues to ensure that the arrangement was working well over time.
Kossek has received worldwide attention for her research on work-life balance and has worked with the Purdue Research Foundation on some of her studies.
July 29, 2019
Science Daily/Portland State University
A new Portland State University study suggests that bullying bosses aren't just bad for employee morale and well-being -- they can also be bad for workplace safety.
Liu-Qin Yang, an associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology in PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and her co-authors surveyed airline pilots and manufacturing technicians and found that employees' safety behavior can be worsened when they're treated in ways that detract from their bonds to a work group.
The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Yang said that bosses' behaviors can strengthen or weaken employees' sense of belonging to the work group by supporting or undermining their status within the group. Poor treatment from a boss can make employees feel that they're not valued by a group. As a result, they can become more self-centered, leading them to occasionally forget to comply with safety rules or overlook opportunities to promote a safer work environment.
Yang said this was especially true among employees who were more uncertain about their social standing within the group.
"When people are less sure about their strengths and weaknesses and their status within a group, they become more sensitive," she said. "They're more likely to respond negatively to their boss' bullying behaviors."
Yang said workplace safety is a critical issue -- and more so in an environment where one employee's failure to behave safely can create circumstances where other people are likely to be injured.
"Organizations need to understand how important it is to curb leaders' bad behavior and to create positive team dynamics, so that there will be fewer negative safety consequences for employees or customers," she said. "It's really critical to manage such leader behavior, support victimized employees and prevent such issues."
Among the study's recommendations:
· Implement training programs that can improve leaders' skills in interacting with their employees, so as to provide feedback and discipline in ways that are neither offensive nor threatening.
· Promote a more civil and engaged work environment that strengthens social bonds between employees and creates a buffer against the negative consequences of their boss' bad behaviors
· Implement transparent performance evaluation processes so employees have less uncertainty about their social status in the workplace
July 25, 2019
Science Daily/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau
Social work professors found that a mental health intervention called Caregivers Journey of Hope can bolster social service workers' emotional resilience and ability to cope with the stress and trauma associated with disasters such as Superstorm Sandy.
An intervention called Caregivers Journey of Hope can help social service workers -- especially those with the least experience in the field -- to mitigate the stress and trauma they may experience when they're helping community members recover from disasters, a new study found.
There's a significant need for mental health interventions for social service workers, who are at high risk of burnout, chronic stress and emotional distress in disaster recovery, said the study's co-authors, University of Illinois social work professors Tara Powell and Kate M. Wegmann.
"Since many people in helping professions may be trying to rebuild their own lives while helping traumatized people in the community, providing these workers with the training and tools to practice physical, emotional and social self-care is critical to helping them reduce their own stress and avert burnout," said Powell, who led the study.
Powell and her co-authors examined the impact that the Caregivers Journey of Hope workshop had on 722 professionals who assisted victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey.
Sandy ravaged the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean during October 2012, killing more than 200 people and causing more than $70 billion in damage. New York and New Jersey were among the hardest-hit regions on the U.S. mainland, where 87 people died and more than 650,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, according to the study.
Powell co-developed the Caregivers Journey of Hope curriculum while working for Save the Children. The curriculum was designed to bolster the resilience of social workers, teachers and children in New Orleans and reduce emotional distress they experienced as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Recovery from disasters often takes years, Powell and Wegmann noted in the study. Working closely with traumatized clients and vicariously experiencing their terror and pain can adversely affect the mental health of counselors and social workers.
In turn, this distress can trigger a host of emotional, behavioral, physical and interpersonal problems, negatively affecting caregivers' job performance and personal lives, according to the study.
Obtaining social support can be especially important for counselors because the often-confidential nature of their work prevents them from discussing traumatizing or stressful experiences outside the workplace, the researchers wrote.
"The half-day Caregivers Journey of Hope workshop gives front-line care providers an opportunity to process disaster-related stress in a safe, confidential environment, build social support and develop strategies to cope with stressors in the workplace and at home," Powell said. "A wealth of research over the past couple of decades has illustrated that higher levels of stress are associated with lower levels of social support."
Working in small groups, workshop participants share their experiences; explore the types, sources and effects of stress; and develop solutions, such as ways they can build their social support networks. They also discuss strategies for rebuilding their communities and for enhancing individual and community-level recovery.
Powell and Wegmann tested the intervention with social workers and counselors from 37 agencies in New York and New Jersey after Sandy.
Participants reported substantial decreases in their stress levels and showed significant improvements on all of the other measures surveyed, the researchers found.
Caregivers who were newest on the job -- those with one to four years' experience -- benefitted the most, showing the greatest gains in their ability to recognize the signs and effects of stress and in their perceived ability to cope with taxing situations.
"This finding is of particular importance, as those with less experience in the social service field are at a higher risk for experiencing various forms of caregiver distress," Wegmann said. "Research has shown that those who perceive that they can actively cope with stressors or who have higher coping self-efficacy tend to have better health and mental health outcomes."
July 17, 2019
Science Daily/Tokyo University of Science
The concept of work-life balance and its relation to the satisfaction that individuals and groups express regarding the quality of their lives have attracted the attention of policy makers, labor economists, and others. Life satisfaction is central to the general happiness and health of a society or nation. In a new study published in Journal of Happiness Studies, examined data from 34 Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and appraised the effects of different factors on the life satisfaction of both women and men in an effort to close some of the gaps in the existing research on the topic.
In recent years, work-life balance has become a major focus in industrialized economies for both organizations and their employees. In a brief survey of the existing literature, Prof Hideo Noda points out, "Many of the existing studies on work-life balance issues have used micro-level data," whether in terms of company size, gender, management level, stages of individuals' career, and so forth. He adds, "Because the implementation of work-life balance policies is an international trend in many 'developed countries,' identifying common characteristics across developed countries using internationally comparable data has the potential to yield findings that are beneficial for many countries, rather than being limited to just a few countries."
Accordingly, Prof Noda assembled data from the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index in an effort to develop a "macro-level" perspective on "life satisfaction elasticity," which is a measure of changes in life satisfaction resulting from changes in efforts to improve work-life balance. Over a database representing both women and men in 34 OECD countries, Professor Noda analyzed the effects of other factors: self-reported health, long-term unemployment, and income inequality.
Prof Noda mentions that previous studies have taken an economic approach and have concluded that, in manufacturing firms, for example, efforts to improve work-life balance, including the introduction of "family-friendly" practices, correlated with improved productivity and life satisfaction. One sociological study using data from European countries found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that working hours correlated with "work-life conflict" or "work-family conflict." A similar European study for found a similar impact of working hours, with Norway and Finland exhibiting the lowest levels of negative impact. Another, larger study of 25 European countries found that workplace autonomy and flexibility varied widely in the impact on work-life with most negative impact in Eastern European countries, along with the UK, Ireland, Spain, and Italy. Finally, several legal studies have described a wide variety of work-life-related practices: family leave, childcare, and labor standards are most favorable in Canada and the European Union; and Japan has an extensive legal framework that supports families, but has yet to address the traditional division of labor according to sex, with men working and women tending to domestic responsibilities.
Prof Noda sought to increase the number of countries included in his study sample and chose the following measures: leisure and personal time; self-reported health; and long-term unemployment. Respondents were asked to score their quality of life on a scale of 0 (worst possible) to 10 (best possible). The data generated were analyzed separately for women and men.
Leisure and personal time -- the indicator for work-life balance -- was highest among European Union member countries, with Norway and Denmark scoring notably high on life satisfaction as well as leisure and personal time. Over all 34 countries, scores were similar for women and men.
Prof Noda also found a rough correlation between GDP and life satisfaction in higher-GDP countries, e.g., EU countries, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Canada, and the United States.
Prof Noda then turned to income inequality, as measured "within-country" or domestic (among the residents of individual countries) and "between-countries," i.e., international (comparing individual countries with the OECD aggregate). From 2002 to 2005, between-country inequality increased somewhat while within-country inequality showed a more significant increase, leaving Prof Noda to conclude that the rise in international inequality was largely the result of increasing within-country inequality. When income inequality is included in the analysis (Noda's "extended model") the additional factor did not have a meaningful impact. While it is perhaps obvious, as Prof Noda writes, "For people with low levels of happiness . . . income inequality is a serious problem . . . we may not find a significant association between actual income inequality and life satisfaction."
One surprising finding of Prof Noda's study is that although work-life balance accommodations are usually aimed at women's concerns, men, in fact, demonstrate a higher elasticity, especially for personal and leisure time. This suggests that the time devoted to leisure and personal care is more important to men than it is to women.
In the future, policies that enhance individuals' life satisfaction can play a major role in improving both productivity and the general well-being of a population. Prof Noda maintains, "The findings of this study could provide useful suggestions for labor policy design in OECD countries." On the other hand, although income inequality did not register as statistically significant, more research, accounting for additional variables, may be necessary.
July 16, 2019
Science Daily/University of Warwick
Why did you choose your job? Or where you live? Scientists at the University of Warwick have discovered that it was probably to keep your options as open as possible -- and the more we co-operate together, the more opportunities are available to us.
Using flocks of birds as a model, they have shown that birds of a feather will indeed flock together to maximise the information they have access to and to give them the most future options when flocking.
The discovery by Henry Charlesworth and his supervisor Professor Matthew Turner published on 15 July in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and provides a clue to the emergence of social co-operation in animals by explaining how individuals gain greater advantages by working in groups. The research was partially funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.
The researchers sought to gain a better understanding of collective motion, like that seen in a flock of birds, a herd of animals, an insect swarm or a human crowd.
They created a computer simulation, using bird flocks as a model, in which the 'birds' perceived a visual representation of the world around them, as if through a simple retina. They then programmed them with an algorithm based on the principle of Future State Maximisation (FSM), so the 'birds' would move to maximise the number of different visual environments that they expect to be able to access in the future.
The way they move together resembled animals in several ways, including cohesion (they stick together), co-alignment (they fly in roughly the same direction as their neighbours) and collision suppression, none of which were specifically programmed into the model. This demonstrates that there is a fundamental advantage to the 'birds' in working together.
Professor Matthew Turner, from the University of Warwick Department of Physics, said: "We adopted a hypothesis that birds are agents that want to maximise their future freedom, and then we asked what the consequences are of that. It looks like it generates dynamics that are extremely similar, even at the quantitative level, to a bird flock. That begs the question of whether this principle is actually the fundamental organisational principle in birds, and possibly in all intelligent life?
"We start from this low-level principle and are able to predict that these agents will move together, what density they will target, what kind of level of order they'll target. All of these things look remarkably similar to what you get in animal systems."
The algorithm is similar to 'tree searches' that have been used for a number of years in applications like chess programs. Chess algorithms would build tree searches of future lines of play and then select those lines that give them the maximum future options, among other factors.
The discovery has applications in a host of fields such as in robotics, drone swarms, farming and even CGI graphics, where creating realistic swarms is seen as a gold standard.
This latest research also suggests that this principle may be a fundamental tool for information processing agents and perhaps help to define intelligence itself.
Professor Turner adds: "People should ask themselves how they make decisions in their own lives -- do they make decisions instinctively or are they trying to optimise something?
"This is a deep question in science, the emergence of social co-operation. We would argue that having a social organisation like a bird flock, because you're all together and social, you collectively gain much more freedom than you would if you were an individual. If you are an individual you would live in a very boring world, you wouldn't be able to interact with your neighbours, or in the context of our society, to request tasks or provide services.
"The idea is that this principle of keeping your options open might be connected to intelligence, and as quantitative scientists we can build a model that shows us what the consequences of that are."
July 30, 2019
Science Daily/University of Texas at Austin
People who cheat on their spouses are significantly more likely to engage in misconduct in the workplace, according to a study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers looked at the records of police officers, financial advisers, white-collar criminals and senior executives who used the Ashley Madison marital infidelity website. Operating under the slogan "Life is short. Have an affair," Ashley Madison advertises itself as a dating service for married people to have "discreet encounters." Despite promises of discreetness, the data were put in the public domain through a hack in 2015 that included 36 million user accounts, including 1 million paid users in the United States.
The study, "Personal Infidelity and Professional Conduct in 4 Settings," by McCombs finance faculty members John M. Griffin and Samuel Kruger, along with Gonzalo Maturana of Emory University, found that Ashley Madison users in the professional settings they studied were more than twice as likely to engage in corporate misconduct.
"This is the first study that's been able to look at whether there is a correlation between personal infidelity and professional conduct," Kruger said. "We find a strong correlation, which tells us that infidelity is informative about expected professional conduct."
The researchers investigated four study groups totaling 11,235 individuals using data on police officers from the Citizens Police Data Project, data on financial advisers from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority BrokerCheck database, data on defendants in SEC cases from the Securities and Exchange Commission's litigation release archives, and data on CEOs and CFOs from Execucomp.
Even after matching misconduct professionals to misconduct-free individuals with similar ages, genders and experiences and controlling for a wide range of executive and cultural variables, the researchers found that people with histories of misconduct were significantly more likely to use the Ashley Madison website.
Their findings suggest a strong connection between people's actions in their personal and professional lives and provide support for the idea that eliminating workplace sexual misconduct may also reduce fraudulent activity.
"Our results show that personal sexual conduct is correlated with professional conduct," Kruger said. "Eliminating sexual misconduct in the workplace could have the extra benefit of contributing to more ethical corporate cultures in general."
New research finds deception is viewed as a sign of competence in certain occupations
June 11, 2019
Science Daily/University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Researchers find that people don't always disapprove of deception. In fact, they perceive the ability to deceive as an asset in occupations that are stereotyped as high in 'selling orientation.'
We all say we don't like liars. But when it comes time to negotiating a big sale, it turns out we tolerate people stretching the truth, and even expect it.
New research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business finds that the ability to deceive is viewed as a sign of competence in jobs that require selling.
In the study, Deception as Competence: The Effect of Occupational Stereotypes on the Perception and Proliferation of Deception, Chicago Booth Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science Emma Levine and Johns Hopkins University's Brian Gunia find that people don't always disapprove of deception. In fact, they perceive the ability to deceive as an asset in occupations that are stereotyped as high in "selling orientation."
"Deception, in the form of fraud, embezzling, and corruption, costs the economy a great deal of money and undermines the economy's underlying moral fabric," Gunia and Levine explain. "Companies expose themselves to greater risk by hiring deceivers."
In two pilot studies, the researchers asked participants to rate 32 occupations as "high" or "low" in selling orientation, reflecting the degree to which occupational members persuade others to make immediate purchases as part of their jobs. In four subsequent studies, the researchers honed in on three occupations that are stereotyped as particularly high in selling orientation -- sales, investment banking, advertising -- and three occupations that participants viewed as relatively low in selling orientation -- consulting, nonprofit management, accounting.
The researchers then ran experiments in which participants observed individuals lying or acting honestly in a variety of circumstances (for example, when reporting their expenses after a business trip or when completing an economic game in the laboratory). Finally, participants judged how successful and competent a liar or honest individual would be in occupations that were high or low in selling orientation -- and, in two of the studies, whether to hire them into those occupations.
Among the key findings: Participants believed that liars would be more successful in high-selling orientation occupations (such as banking, advertising, and sales) than low selling-orientation occupations (such as nonprofit management and accounting). Furthermore, participants believed that liars would be more successful than honest people in high-selling orientation occupations.
Indeed, when participants had the opportunity to hire individuals to complete selling-oriented tasks, they were more likely to hire deceivers for these tasks, even when their own money was on the line.
"We found that people don't always disapprove of liars," Levine says. "Instead, they think liars are likely to be successful in certain occupations -- those that do a lot of high-pressure selling."
The paper is published in the journal, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
The findings may help to explain why deception persists in certain occupations: because hiring managers and other organizational actors see deceivers as more competent for high-pressure sales roles, and hire them at an elevated rate, the researchers find.
High-pressure selling occupations, which include investment bankers and advertisers, are some of society's highest-status and highest-paid occupations, so prospective employees and employers should worry "if deception is a prerequisite for employees to get hired and rewarded," Levine says.
Organizations intent on reducing deception should avoid framing occupational tasks as requiring high-pressure sales tactics to succeed, the study says. Instead, they would do well to align their job requirements with a customer-oriented approach to selling that emphasizes how the employee can help fulfill a client's long-term interests. Such a shift could reduce hiring managers' tendencies to see deceivers as competent and reduce the temptation to recruit deceivers into key roles.
"Armed with the knowledge that deception is perceived to signal competence in high-pressure sales occupations," the researchers write, "companies may want to explicitly deem deception as incompetent."
June 11, 2019
Science Daily/Rice University
Speaking up in front of a supervisor can be stressful -- but it doesn't have to be, according to new research from a Rice University psychologist. How a leader responds to employee suggestions can impact whether or not the employee opens up in the future.
Danielle King, an assistant professor of psychology at Rice, is the lead author of "Voice Resilience: Fostering Future Voice After Non-Endorsement of Suggestions," which will appear in an upcoming special issue of the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. The paper explains how leaders can use language that encourages workers to offer more ideas in the future, even if their suggestions are not implemented.
After conducting two studies, King found that people who speak up at work only to have their ideas rejected by supervisors will nonetheless offer more suggestions later if their bosses respond properly.
"Given that many employee ideas for change cannot be endorsed, our results highlight the practical importance of providing sensitive explanations for why employee suggestions cannot be embraced," she said. "Specifically, it is critically important for leaders to exhibit sensitivity in their communication with employees."
The first study, with 197 participants, included a survey asking workers to describe a time when they gave their supervisor a suggestion that was rejected. They also answered questions about the adequacy of their leader's explanation, how the experience made them feel and how likely they were to speak up in the future.
The second study, including 223 students, involved two 30-minute online surveys. In this experimental study, students worked as interns for a marketing firm that was developing advertisements for businesses frequented by other students.
Students who provided suggestions about the marketing materials received one of four responses, all of which indicated their boss didn't agree with their advice. Those four responses covered a range of answers, from sensitive and well-explained to insensitive and poorly explained. The students then had a second chance to offer suggestions on different material.
King, whose future research will explore other forms of resilience at work, hopes this study will encourage more sensitive communication between leaders and employees.
"It would be useful for organizations to offer training and development for leaders on how to let employees down gently while encouraging them to speak up in the future," King said. "As demonstrated in our study, explanation sensitivity led to employees opening up again. In addition, it may be valuable to help employees understand that extenuating circumstances sometimes prevent implementation of potentially good ideas. It also would be useful to provide justification for why complete explanations cannot be revealed for strategic or confidentiality reasons. If such explanations are delivered in a sensitive manner, this should maintain the type of leader-employer relationship that encourages employees to speak up in the future."
May 29, 2019
Science Daily/University of Toronto
A new U of T study has for the first time outlined a few key advantages that extroverts enjoy in the workplace.
"There's been much debate in popular culture recently about the advantages and disadvantages extroverts have in the workplace, but it often overlooks the scientific literature," says Michael Wilmot, a postdoc in the Department of Management at U of T Scarborough who led the study.
"We wanted to delve into this research to find out how and to what extent extroversion relates to things relevant to success in the workplace across the lifespan of people."
A prototypical extrovert can be defined as talkative, outgoing, prefers taking charge, expresses positive emotion and enjoys seeking out new experiences, explains Wilmot. By comparison, a prototypical introvert is quiet, emotionally reserved, less energetic, and harder to get to know.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, offers the most comprehensive review of existing research (91 meta-analyses in total) relating to extroversion and work-related variables. These variables (165 in total) include things like motivation, work-life balance, emotional well-being and performance. Supporting data was taken from studies across multiple countries, from different occupations and across different career moments including education, job application, and on the job evaluations.
Wilmot and his co-authors at the University of Minnesota found that higher extroversion was desirable for 90 percent of variables, which suggests a small, persistent advantage in the workplace. However, it was in four categories that extroverts enjoy a distinct advantage; motivational, emotional, interpersonal and performance-related.
"These four appear to really capture the strongest positive effects of extroversion at work," says Wilmot, whose research looks at how organizations use personality measures to solve workplace challenges.
Wilmot says extroversion is linked with a greater motivation to achieve positive goals -- in this case as a desired reward through work. It's also closely associated with experiencing positive emotions more regularly. As he points out, a happy employee is not only more satisfied with life, they also tend to work harder and are perceived as a better leader as a result. Positive emotions also act as a buffer against stress or adverse experiences at work.
Since extroverts like to be around other people, the third advantage has to do with socializing. By virtue of stronger communication skills, extroverts tend to adapt better to different social situations and are adept at persuasion, which is also a strong leadership skill.
The fourth advantage is in job performance. "This was a real surprise," says Wilmot, who points to past research that has found out of the big five personality traits, only conscientiousness and emotional stability generally predicted performance across different occupations.
He says the reason for better performance likely appears to come from a combination of the three previous advantages.
"If you're motivated to achieve a goal at work, if you're feeling positive and you're good at dealing with people, you're probably going to perform better on the job," he says. "These advantages appear to have a cumulative effect over the span of one's career."
So what does this mean for introverts?
Wilmot says while it's generally advantageous to be extroverted, introverts shouldn't interpret these findings to suggest they will be at an inevitable disadvantage.
First, as Wilmot notes, few people can be defined purely as an introvert or extrovert, and that everyone displays a range of extroverted and introverted behaviors.
There are also numerous other characteristics that contribute to workplace success, including cognitive ability, conscientiousness, and the ability to regulate negative emotions.
A limitation of the study is that it only looked at extroversion and work-related variables. Wilmot adds there are many jobs (computer programming, for instance) where introverted characteristics like listening skills or the ability to focus would be more beneficial.
"You might be more introverted, but if you're intelligent, work hard and bring other things to the table, you're probably going to do well," he says.
"At the same time, if you're more extroverted, but lack the cognitive ability or work ethic, you're probably not going to be as successful."
May 22, 2019
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, demonstrated that employees at a large urban hospital who purchased the least healthy food in its cafeteria were more likely to have an unhealthy diet outside of work, be overweight and/or obese, and have risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, compared to employees who made healthier purchases. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the relationship of eating behaviors at work with overall diet and health and can help to shape worksite wellness programs that both improve long-term health outcomes and reduce costs.
"Employer-sponsored programs to promote healthy eating could reach millions of Americans and help to curb obesity, a worsening epidemic that too often leads to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer," said lead investigator Anne N. Thorndike, MD, MPH, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Most Americans spend about half their waking hours at work and consume food acquired at work. Nearly a third of all US workers are obese, which has an impact beyond the individual's health risks. Previous research has shown that obesity contributes to higher absenteeism, lower productivity, and higher healthcare expenses for employers. This study's findings can lead to more effective strategies to encourage employees to choose healthier foods and reduce their risks for chronic conditions.
"Workplace wellness programs have the potential to promote lifestyle changes among large populations of employees, yet to date there have been challenges to developing effective programs. We hope our findings will help to inform the development of accessible, scalable, and affordable interventions," noted Jessica L. McCurley, PhD, MPH, one of the study's investigators and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Participants were 602 Massachusetts General Hospital employees who regularly used the hospital's cafeterias and were enrolled in a health promotion study in 2016?2018. As part of the hospital's "Choose Well, Eat Well" program, foods and beverages in the hospital cafeterias have "traffic light" labels to indicate their healthfulness: green is healthy, yellow is less healthy, and red is unhealthy. Food displays have also been modified to put healthier choices in the direct line of sight, while unhealthy foods were made less accessible to reduce impulse purchases. "Simplified labeling strategies provide an opportunity to educate employees without restricting their freedom of choice. In the future, using purchase data to provide personalized nutritional feedback via email or text messaging is another option to explore to encourage healthy eating," added Dr. Thorndike.
The study is a cross-sectional analysis of worksite food purchases from cash register data; food consumption reports from surveys; and cardio-metabolic test results, diagnoses, and medication information. Using cafeteria purchasing data, the investigators developed a Healthy Purchasing Score (HPS) to rate the dietary quality of employees' overall purchases. The investigators compared participants' HPS to the quality of their overall diet (using an online survey and tool developed by the National Cancer Institute), as well as to measures of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol (data acquired through test results and self-reporting). The analysis showed that employees with the lowest HPS (least healthy purchases) had the lowest overall dietary quality and the highest risk for obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Healthier purchases were associated with higher dietary quality and lower prevalence of obesity, hypertension, and prediabetes/diabetes.
April 28, 2019
Science Daily/European Society of Cardiology
Work stress and impaired sleep are linked to a threefold higher risk of cardiovascular death in employees with hypertension. That's the finding of research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
Study author Professor Karl-Heinz Ladwig, of the German Research Centre for Environmental Health and the Medical Faculty, Technical University of Munich, said: "Sleep should be a time for recreation, unwinding, and restoring energy levels. If you have stress at work, sleep helps you recover. Unfortunately poor sleep and job stress often go hand in hand, and when combined with hypertension the effect is even more toxic."
One-third of the working population has hypertension (high blood pressure). Previous research has shown that psychosocial factors have a stronger detrimental effect on individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular risks than on healthy people. This was the first study to examine the combined effects of work stress and impaired sleep on death from cardiovascular disease in hypertensive workers.
The study included 1,959 hypertensive workers aged 25-65, without cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Compared to those with no work stress and good sleep, people with both risk factors had a three times greater likelihood of death from cardiovascular disease. People with work stress alone had a 1.6-fold higher risk while those with only poor sleep had a 1.8-times higher risk.
During an average follow-up of nearly 18 years, the absolute risk of cardiovascular death in hypertensive staff increased in a stepwise fashion with each additional condition. Employees with both work stress and impaired sleep had an absolute risk of 7.13 per 1,000 person-years compared to 3.05 per 1,000-person years in those with no stress and healthy sleep. Absolute risks for only work stress or only poor sleep were 4.99 and 5.95 per 1,000 person-years, respectively.
In the study, work stress was defined as jobs with high demand and low control -- for example when an employer wants results but denies authority to make decisions. "If you have high demands but also high control, in other words you can make decisions, this may even be positive for health," said Professor Ladwig. "But being entrapped in a pressured situation that you have no power to change is harmful."
Impaired sleep was defined as difficulties falling asleep and/or maintaining sleep. "Maintaining sleep is the most common problem in people with stressful jobs," said Professor Ladwig. "They wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning to go to the toilet and come back to bed ruminating about how to deal with work issues."
"These are insidious problems," noted Professor Ladwig. "The risk is not having one tough day and no sleep. It is suffering from a stressful job and poor sleep over many years, which fade energy resources and may lead to an early grave."
The findings are a red flag for doctors to ask patients with high blood pressure about sleep and job strain, said Professor Ladwig. "Each condition is a risk factor on its own and there is cross-talk among them, meaning each one increases risk of the other. Physical activity, eating healthily and relaxation strategies are important, as well as blood pressure lowering medication if appropriate."
Employers should provide stress management and sleep treatment in the workplace, he added, especially for staff with chronic conditions like hypertension.
Components of group stress management sessions:
· Start with 5 to 10 minutes of relaxation.
· Education about healthy lifestyle.
· Help with smoking cessation, physical exercise, weight loss.
· Techniques to cope with stress and anxiety at home and work.
· How to monitor progress with stress management.
· Improving social relationships and social support.
Sleep treatment can include:
· Stimulus control therapy: training to associate the bed/bedroom with sleep and set a consistent sleep-wake schedule.
· Relaxation training: progressive muscle relaxation, and reducing intrusive thoughts at bedtime that interfere with sleep.
· Sleep restriction therapy: curtailing the period in bed to the time spent asleep, thereby inducing mild sleep deprivation, then lengthening sleep time.
· Paradoxical intention therapy: remaining passively awake and avoiding any effort (i.e. intention) to fall asleep, thereby eliminating anxiety.
April 25, 2019
Science Daily/University of Exeter
Companies would do well to tailor training and recruitment measures to encourage managers who have empathy, integrity and are trustworthy -- because they can improve productivity, according to new research from the University of Exeter Business School.
Bosses who are so-called 'servant leaders' create a positive culture of trust and fairness in the workplace. In turn, they benefit through creating loyal and positive teams. This type of manager has personal integrity and is also keen to encourage staff development. The new research shows clear evidence of a link between this style of leadership and an increase in productivity.
Researchers examined 130 independent studies which had previously been published and used them to test a number of theories.
"Our work shows that, as we expected, a 'servant leader' style of management which is ethical, trustworthy and has a real interest in the wellbeing and development of staff brings about real positives within the workplace," said Dr Allan Lee, the lead author of the report and Senior Lecturer in Management.
"Employees are more positive about their work and therefore also often feel empowered to become more creative. The result is a rise in productivity."
The analysis also found that this style of leadership often creates a positive and valued working relationship between the manager and employee.
"Given the results, we recommend organisations look to put 'servant leaders' into influential positions and that training programmes and selection processes are aligned to make this happen," added Dr Lee.
The results also suggest that it would benefit organisations to create, or reinforce a culture that positively promotes trust, fairness, and high-quality working relationships between managers and staff.
April 24, 2019
Science Daily/University of Zurich
If someone in the workplace is mistreated, their colleagues may respond with empathy -- or with schadenfreude. The latter emotion, according to a new study by the University of Zurich, occurs primarily in highly competitive working environments, when one person's misfortune facilitates another's goals. Even worse, schadenfreude can be contagious. For this reason, it is worth establishing an inclusive working climate and team-based incentives.
Most employees have heard of or witnessed a colleague being mistreated, talked over, or bullied. To date, most research on this subject argues that observers feel empathy toward victims and anger toward perpetrators. However, Jamie Gloor, business economist at UZH, believes that this view oversimplifies the complex nature of social dynamics. Together with colleagues from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the National University of Singapore, she devoted her latest publication to the emergence, development, and behavioral consequences of schadenfreude -- an emotion long discussed by philosophers as early as Aristotle but which modern organizational research has largely overlooked.
Competitive workplaces create perfect conditions
As well as providing positive social experiences such as comradery and support, modern organizations are also ripe for competition, envy, and intergroup tension. These negative dynamics increase the likelihood that some people may benefit from the mistreatment of others, and it is under such conditions that schadenfreude is able to arise and thrive. "In complex and progressively busy environments, like workplaces, we focus on what is most relevant to us and our goals," says Gloor. This means that schadenfreude is more likely to be directed toward employees who particularly stand out and are envied. "The mistreatment can level the playing field, potentially increasing one's own chances for coveted rewards such as bonuses and promotions."
Schadenfreude's vicious circle
As the authors explain, observers may be particularly bold in showing their schadenfreude if the victim is deemed to have deserved the mistreatment and is somehow responsible -- because of past misdeeds, for example. The researchers make a distinction between this righteous schadenfreude and ambivalent schadenfreude, which is when the pleasure in someone else's misfortune is clouded by feelings of guilt and shame.
The problem with schadenfreude, particularly that which is considered to be justified, is that it can set off more cycles of mistreatment. So observers may also start treating the target of their schadenfreude unfairly, for example, by refusing to help them or actively excluding them. In this way, pleasure in another person's pain can create vicious circles of mistreatment. "If schadenfreude becomes pervasive among employees, mistreatment could also become the norm," concludes Gloor.
Counteracting competitive dynamics
Consequently, the authors couple their conclusions with a series of recommendations. They advise leaders to develop shared visions and promote team-based rather than individual incentives. Creating an inclusive climate may also help reduce feelings of "otherness," which can also promote feelings of schadenfreude. In addition, the authors stress the importance of maintaining fair policies and procedures to reduce potential envy and resentment toward star performers. Finally, it may also be worth paying close attention to opinion leaders within social groups to avert spirals of mistreatment.
April 4, 2019
Science Daily/University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management
Though most firms today embrace a culture of criticism, when supervisors and peers dispense negative feedback it can actually stunt the creative process, according to a new study.
Attention managers: the next time you need to inspire your team creatively, be more attentive to your employees' feelings when you deliver negative feedback. Though most firms today embrace a culture of criticism, when supervisors and peers dispense negative feedback it can actually stunt the creative process, according to a new study co-authored by Yeun Joon Kim, a PhD student at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.
Kim, who worked as a software engineer for Samsung before pursuing his graduate studies, is familiar with having his creative work scrutinized -- and at times, picked apart. His previous professional experience actually inspired the thinking for his latest paper, which is in-press with the Academy of Management Journal.
"I personally hate hearing negative feedback -- as most people do -- and I wondered if it really improved my performance, particularly when it came to completing creative tasks," says Kim, who in May will join the Cambridge Judge Business School as an assistant professor.
This is an issue that many other researchers are curious about, as well. The literature has been mixed when it comes to determining whether criticism inspires or inhibits creative thinking. In this new investigation, Kim and his co-author Junha Kim, a PhD student at Ohio State University, observed -- through a field experiment and a lab experiment -- and reported on how receiving negative feedback might impact the creativity of feedback recipients.
In both studies, Kim found that negative feedback can help or hinder creativity. What is most important is where the criticism comes from.
When creative professionals or participants received criticism from a boss or a peer, they tended to be less creative in their subsequent work. Interestingly, if an individual received negative feedback from an employee of lower rank, they became more creative.
Some aspects of these findings seem intuitive, says Kim.
"It makes sense that employees might feel threatened by criticism from their managers," says Kim. "Supervisors have a lot of influence in deciding promotions or pay raises. So negative feedback from a boss might trigger career anxieties."
It also stands to reason that feedback from a co-worker might also be received as threatening. We often compete with our peers for the same promotions and opportunities.
When we feel that pressure from above or from our peers, we tend to fixate on the stressful aspects of it and end up being less creative in our future work, says Kim.
What Kim found most surprising was how criticism proved to be beneficial for supervisors when the negative feedback came from their followers (employees that they manage).
"It's a bit counterintuitive because we tend to believe we shouldn't criticize the boss," says Kim. "In reality, most supervisors are willing to receive negative feedback and learn from it. It's not that they enjoy criticism -- rather, they are in a natural power position and can cope with the discomfort of negative feedback better."
The key takeaways: bosses and coworkers need to be more careful when they offer negative feedback to someone they manage or to their peers. And feedback recipients need to worry less when it comes to receiving criticism, says Kim.
"The tough part of being a manager is pointing out a follower's poor performance or weak points. But it's a necessary part of the job," says Kim. "If you're a supervisor, just be aware that your negative feedback can hurt your followers' creativity. Followers tend to receive negative feedback personally. Therefore, keep your feedback specific to tasks. Explain how the point you're discussing relates to only their task behavior, not to aspects of the person."
And, in general, be kind and attentive.
"Don't criticize recklessly. Anyone who wants to offer negative feedback on the job should do so -- discreetly and sensitively."
Recent research indicates that empowering employees allows them to respond positively to negative situations
April 4, 2019
Science Daily/San Diego State University
Recently published research from SDSU management professor, Dr. Gabi Eissa and University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire management professor, Dr. Rebecca Wyland, shows that "managers who demonstrate ethical leadership through two-way communication, positive reinforcement and emotional support not only mitigates this type of employee behavior, but also helps alleviate stress in the work environment."
Their research, published in Applied Psychology: An International Review, determined conflicts between the home and work environment causes stress for employees, who, in turn, engage in words and behavior meant to damage the reputation of their co-workers. "When family and life issues conflict with work situations, this can cause 'hindrance stress' which means job demands are viewed as obstacles to personal growth or goals," said Eissa. "Hindrance stress often depletes the employee's ability to exercise self-control and they lash out with aggressive and undermining behavior toward their peers."
While it would be easy for supervisors to ignore the situation or to confront and punish employees for counter-productive behavior, their research shows that ethical leadership may prevent these types of outbursts from ever even happening.
"We define 'ethical leadership' as supervisors who demonstrate appropriate work conduct through their personal actions and those who engage employees by discussing their work-related worries and emotions," said Eissa. "Ethical leaders want to help employees respond positively to negative situations and they try to offer resources to help employees who may find themselves hitting a rough patch."
Eissa and Wyland surveyed 156 employees who worked at least 20 hours a week (focal employees) and one of their co-workers to determine how work-family conflict affected hindrance stress (can we define hindrance stress?). They asked focal employees to measure work/family conflict stress, hindrance stress and the ethical leadership qualities of their management team. They then asked the co-workers a series of questions designed to measure social undermining activities.
"Once the data was merged, the results showed that hindrance stress -- a specific type of stress -- was a key factor that linked work-family conflict to social undermining," reported Eissa. "We also found less social undermining among employees in presence of ethical leadership as well as how and when work-family conflict led social undermining."
"Our conclusions may have implications for organizational policies, programs and training initiatives that are aimed at reducing work-family conflict and hindrance stress. This, of course, leads to less social undermining and a more positive, productive workplace," said Eissa. "Our findings may help organizations to understand the importance of having ethical leaders, but it takes commitment from their top leadership to make this a reality."
April 2, 2019
Science Daily/The Physiological Society
Many studies have shown that shift work is associated with heart and metabolic diseases, but new research has clarified how shift work can have a long-term effect on the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
With over 20% of the population in industrial countries engaging shift work -- in sectors such as healthcare and transportation -- we urgently need to understand its health burden (1).
Many studies have shown that shift work is associated with heart and metabolic diseases, but new research in Experimental Physiology has clarified how shift work can have a long-term effect on the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The study specifically suggested that shift work has a negative impact on the way a type of fat (called triglycerides) is broken down, as well as on the way sugar is utilised in our bodies. Both of these increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes because they affect how our body processes sugar and fat.
Researchers at the University College of Medical Sciences, University of Delhi conducted the research on two groups of healthcare workers. The first group included nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers aged 20 to 40 of both sexes who had not done night shift in the last one year or ever and had normal blood sugar levels. The second group was of the same professional background and age, but involved in rotational night shift duties (more than 4 nights duties per month at least for last one year) and had normal blood sugar levels.
Blood sugar levels were measured using an oral glucose tolerance test. Then, after 12 hours of overnight fasting, participants were given a high fat meal. Fasting insulin levels, and triglyceride levels, after fasting and after the meal, were measured in all of the study participants. These were compared between health care workers with and without night shift duties.
Lead author on the study, SV Madhu said:
"This study gives us a better understanding of why shift work is associated, in the long-term, with heart and metabolic diseases, helping us work towards reducing the incidence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity in the future."
Men, cannabis users more likely to engage in this risky behavior
July 31, 2019
Science Daily/New York University
More than a tenth of U.S. adults age 65 and older currently binge drink, putting them at risk for a range of health problems, according to a study by researchers at NYU School of Medicine and the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, also finds certain factors -- including using cannabis and being male -- are associated with an increase in binge drinking.
Binge drinking is a risky behavior, particularly for older adults due to aging-related physical changes (for instance, an increased risk of falling) and the likelihood of having chronic health issues. Despite the potential for harm, little research has focused on binge drinking among older adults.
"Binge drinking, even episodically or infrequently, may negatively affect other health conditions by exacerbating disease, interacting with prescribed medications, and complicating disease management," said Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, the study's lead author and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine's Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care, and the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health.
In this study, Han and his colleagues used the most recent national data to determine the current prevalence and factors that may increase the risk of binge drinking among adults. The researchers examined data from 10,927 U.S. adults age 65 and older who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2017. They looked at the prevalence of current (past-month) binge alcohol use, defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as five drinks or more on the same occasion for men and four drinks or more for women. They also compared demographic and health factors of past-month binge drinkers with people who drank within the past month, but below the binge drinking threshold.
The authors estimate that more than one in 10 (10.6 percent) older adults have binge drank in the past month -- an increase compared to earlier studies. In the decade leading up to the data used in this study (2005-2014), binge drinking among adults 65 and older was between 7.7 and 9 percent.
Binge drinkers were more likely to be male, current tobacco and/or cannabis users, African American, and have less than a high school education. They were also more likely to visit the emergency room in the past year. Similar to previous studies, the study did not find associations between binge drinking and other mental health disorders.
"The association of binge drinking with cannabis use has important health implications. Using both may lead to higher impairment effects. This is particularly important as cannabis use is becoming more prevalent among older adults, and older adults may not be aware of the possible dangers of using cannabis with alcohol," said CDUHR researcher Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, the study's senior author and an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health.
The researchers also examined chronic disease profiles of older binge drinkers, and noted that binge drinkers had a lower prevalence of two or more chronic diseases compared to non-binge drinkers. The most common chronic disease among binge drinkers was hypertension (41.4 percent), followed by cardiovascular disease (23.1 percent) and diabetes (17.7 percent).
"Binge drinkers were less likely to have most chronic diseases compared to alcohol users who did not binge drink. This may be because some people stop or decrease their drinking when they have an illness or alcohol-related disease," said Han, who is also a CDUHR researcher. "Clinicians must be aware that some older adults with chronic disease still engage in binge drinking behaviors, which can worsen their health issues. This may explain why binge drinkers were more likely to report visits to the emergency room."
The researchers note that while the study uses the NIAAA's recommended threshold for binge drinking, the same organization also suggests lower drinking limits for adults over 65: no more than three drinks a day. Since the current analysis used the higher cutoff for binge drinking, the study may underestimate the prevalence of binge drinking among older adults.
"Our results underscore the importance of educating, screening, and intervening to prevent alcohol-related harms in older adults, who may not be aware of their heightened risk for injuries and how alcohol can exacerbate chronic diseases," said Han.
Woman's ear (stock image). Credit: © Syda Productions / Adobe Stock
July 24, 2019
Science Daily/University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Having a bigger waistline and a high body mass index (BMI) in your 60s may be linked with greater signs of brain aging years later, according to a study published by a leading University of Miami neurologist researcher in the July 24, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study suggests that these factors may accelerate brain aging by at least a decade.
"People with bigger waists and higher BMI were more likely to have thinning in the cortex area of the brain, which implies that obesity is associated with reduced gray matter of the brain," said study author Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., a UHealth neurologist, professor of neurology, epidemiology, and public health and scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Research Institute.
"These associations were especially strong in those who were younger than 65, which adds weight to the theory that having poor health indicators in mid-life may increase the risk for brain aging and problems with memory and thinking skills in later life," said Dr. Rundek,
The study involved 1,289 people with an average age of 64. Two-thirds of the participants were Latino. Participants' BMI and waist circumference were measured at the beginning of the study. An average of six years later, participants had MRI brain scans to measure the thickness of the cortex area of the brain, overall brain volume and other factors.
A total of 346 of the participants had a BMI of less than 25, which is considered normal weight; 571 people had a BMI of 25 to 30, which is considered overweight; and 372 people had a BMI of 30 or higher, which is considered obese.
For waist circumference, which can be different for men and women, the normal weight group, which was 54 percent women, had an average of 33 inches, the overweight group, which was 56 percent women, had an average of 36 inches, and the obese group, which was 73 percent women, had an average of 41 inches.
Having a higher BMI was associated with having a thinner cortex, even after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the cortex, such as high blood pressure, alcohol use and smoking. In overweight people, every unit increase in BMI was associated with a 0.098 millimeter (mm) thinner cortex and in obese people with a 0.207 mm thinner cortex. Having a thinner cortex has been tied to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Having a bigger waist was also associated with a thinner cortex after adjusting for other factors.
Rundek said, "In normal aging adults, the overall thinning rate of the cortical mantle is between 0.01 and 0.10 mm per decade, and our results would indicate that being overweight or obese may accelerate aging in the brain by at least a decade."
"These results are exciting because they raise the possibility that by losing weight, people may be able to stave off aging of their brains and potentially the memory and thinking problems that can come along with brain aging," Rundek said. "However, with the rising number of people globally who are overweight or obese and the difficulty many experience with losing weight, obviously this is a concern for public health in the future as these people age."
Rundek noted that the study does not prove that extra weight causes the cortex to get thinner; it only shows an association.
A limitation of the study was that, like many studies of older people, it is possible that the healthiest people are more likely to live longer and take part in studies, so that may affect the results.