Long Hours At Work Was Linked To Depression In Women In A New Study

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From hustle culture to millennial burnout, it seems like the eight hour work days Dolly Parton grumbled about in her anthem “9 to 5” may be a thing of the past. For many professionals, the reality of a full-time job is working long hours that bleed outside standard office shifts and may even require working on weekends. A survey by Randstad found that more than half of millennials in the U.S. workforce said they felt compelled to answer emails outside of work, with 40 percent saying they felt guilty using all of their vacation time. It turns out that this workaholic lifestyle comes at a cost. A new study found that women who work long hours may be associated with a higher risk for depression, and that working weekends was linked with a heightened risk of depression for both men and women.

The observational study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, focused on the relationship between work patterns filled with long hours and depressive symptoms in workers. The study was based on data from a UK-based household survey that tracks the “health and wellbeing” of households throughout the country. The researchers honed in specifically on surveys from 12,188 women and 11,215 men for their study, with the data ranging from 2010 to 2012. Participants were divided into four groups based on how many hours they worked in a week: part-time employees (fewer than 35 hours), standard full-time (35-40 hours) , long hours (41-54 hours), and extra long hours (55 hours and up). For weekend hours, subjects either responded that they worked no weekends, some weekends, or most/all weekends.

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Other factors beyond gender were considered when assessing the data, including age, parenthood, job type, the individual’s degree of control within their job, and salary, among others. For both men and women, people who made the least income, had the least job control and were older tended to be more depressed on average. Men also outworked women: fewer than a quarter of women worked beyond the standard 35-40 hours a week group, compared to nearly half of men. Around half of the women said they worked on weekends, compared to over two thirds of men. Interestingly, while married mothers generally didn’t work longer hours, married fathers did.

When it came to experiencing depressive symptoms, women who worked 55 or more hours per week, along with women who worked most or all weekends, displayed significantly higher depressive symptoms than women in the standard hours group. The researchers noted that women in traditionally male-dominated jobs were more likely to work longer, and women who worked weekends were often in the lower-income service sector.

“Our finding of more depressive symptoms among women working extra-long hours might also be explained by the potential double-burden experienced by women when their long hours in paid work are added on to their time in domestic labour [sic],” the researchers wrote in a report on the study. “Previous studies have found that once unpaid housework and caring is accounted for, women work longer than men on average, and that this has been linked to poorer physical health.”

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For people who are going through a difficult time at work, whether for mental health reasons or other factors, there are ways to make your situation a bit more manageable. A recent literature review, independent of the UK-based study, found that people with “non-visible stigmas” like mental health problems who were more open about their condition at work tended to lead happier and more productive lives inside and outside their jobs. Workers who chose to “live openly” by disclosing their non-visible stigmas at work tended to have higher job satisfaction, less job anxiety, and higher commitment to their role while on the clock. The benefits also extended beyond the workplace — this group of workers said they felt a higher amount of satisfaction with their lives and less psychological stress in general.

Living openly tended to have positive effects on individuals because it let them improve social connections in the office, whether with peers or superiors, Eden King, a study co-author and associate psychology professor at Rice University, said in a statement.

Regardless of what your job is and what your career goals may be, it's important to be mindful of your health and check in on yourself to avoid burnout. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping at work, reach out to a friend or medical professional for support. After all, it won't matter how many hours you put in or how good you are at your job if you are not in a healthy headspace to enjoy the fruits of your labor.