How E-mail Harms Your Intelligence

By Kathrine Jebsen Moore, Bloomberg News

Constant e-mailing and text messaging reduces mental ability by 10 IQ points, a more severe effect than smoking cannabis, by distracting the brain from other tasks, a University of London report showed.

The loss of intelligence and disruption caused by electronic "info-mania,"' costs companies millions of dollars in lost productivity each year, according to the study by the University's Institute of Psychiatry.

"This is a very real and widespread phenomenon," said Dr. Glenn Wilson, author of the research, in a phone interview. "Info-mania, if unchecked, will damage a worker's performance by reducing their mental sharpness. Companies should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working."

The study of 1,000 adults found their intelligence declined as tasks were interrupted by incoming e-mails and texts. The average reduction of 10 IQ points, though temporary, is more than double the four-point loss associated with smoking cannabis. A 10 point drop is also associated with missing a night of sleep, the report said.

Sixty-two percent of workers are addicted to checking messages out of office hours and while on vacation, according to the report. A third of all adults will respond to an e-mail immediately or within 10 minutes. One in five are `"happy" to interrupt a business or social meeting to respond to an e-mail or text message, the study found.

"E-mails flashing on a screen distracts people, and the use of electronic messaging should be limited," said Wilson.

Women were less affected than men. Their average decline in IQ was five points, compared with 15 for males, suggesting women are better at multitasking, Wilson said.

The study also surveyed opinions on messaging in the workplace. Eighty-nine percent of workers said it's "extremely rude" to answer e-mails and phone messages during a face-to- face meeting. Seventy-two percent were "irritated" by work phone calls held in public places.

The Scotsman newspaper earlier reported the findings of the study, which was commissioned by Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's second-biggest personal-computer maker.