If you need an excuse to cut the overtime hours at work, a new study has found that working a 55-hour week can lead to a major depressive episode (MDE). People at a higher risk are the young, women, employees on lower incomes and those who consume a moderate amount of alcohol.
The Whitehall II study published in the peer reviews journal PLoS ONE set out to understand the relationship between long working hours and clinical depression, after previous studies were found not to be entirely consistent.
The collaborative study by scientists from Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, and colleagues from Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland found that even allowing for other factors such as unhealthy lifestyles, smoking, alcohol use, relationship status and a degree of job stress, the scientists found that people working more than 11 hours per day (55 hours per week) were 2.43 times more likely to have symptoms of clinical depression compared to employees working 7-8 hours a day.
The participants of the study consisted of British civil servants with various jobs and salaries. 1626 men, 497 women; with an average age 47, were divided into groups working 7-8 working hours per day; 9 hours per day; 10 hours per day; 11-12 hours per day, which included work being brought home. They were then ascertained for onset depression using the University of Michigan version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview each preceding 12 months.
The data collected found those employees with long working hours were more likely to be men, married or cohabiting, from the higher occupational grades, who often had less passive jobs or low strain jobs, than employees with standard working hours. However it was found that men were less likely to be at risk of depression than women in similar highly paid positions.
The researchers suggested that this is because women were more likely to have more time spent outside work with similar responsibilities to work and that men could be 'buffered' from depression by having a job they enjoyed and a higher level of social status.
Younger employees who work long hours who consume moderate levels of alcohol were also found to be at a higher risk of psychological morbidity. Researchers suggested that financial, social and family pressures for young people could be the reason as well as pressure to excel in the work place at an early age.
It is becoming expectable behaviour for many companies in Australia to expect employees that wish to succeed to be seen working in the office past 6pm most nights.
Co-author Professor Stephen Stansfeld, of Queen Mary, University of London, said: "People working very long hours may be working less efficiently, and need to be thinking about their health and stress it may be causing in their home life as well."
In order to make our working environment healthy, both employers and employees should recognise it is possible to excel at work within regular hours if time is managed efficiently.
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