A new study suggests that driving for more than two hours a day has an adverse effect on mental capacity. (The Sunday Times)
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Leicester, investigated how sedentary behaviour affects brainpower and found that IQ scores fell faster in middle-aged people who drove long distances every day.
The researchers suggest that people who want to protect their brains against ageing should minimise their time on the road and find activities that are more mentally stimulating.
Kishan Bakrania, a medical epidemiologist at the University of Leicester, told The Sunday Times: “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.”
The researchers analysed the lifestyles of more than half a million Britons (aged between 37 and 73 years) over a five-year period, during which they took intelligence and memory tests.
The 93,000 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.
Mr Bakrania said: “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.”
While other studies suggest cognitive decline is linked to physical inactivity, Mr Bakrania says other factors may play a role.
He said: “Driving causes stress and fatigue, with studies showing the links between them and cognitive decline.”