Too Much Overtime May Raise Depression Risk
Workers Who Regularly Put in 11-Hour Days More Than Double Their Depression Risk, Researchers Say
Long Hours and Depression continued...
Some warning signs for depression include trouble sleeping, feeling stressed, being irritable and dissatisfied, or lacking pleasure in those things that usually make you happy. You may also make more mistakes on the job, or have trouble getting organized or concentrating.
Workaholics are not immune to depression, but Virtanen suspects it might take them longer to develop depression because they probably find their jobs more rewarding than people who may be forced to put in longer hours.
Although this research was done in the 1990s, these days technology tethers us even closer to our jobs. "Work is no longer so much tied to time and place," Virtanen says. "This may make some people feel highly attached to their work tasks outside of their usual working hours."
Although the study only looked at public employees in white-collar jobs, it's unclear if similar results would be found in blue-collar or private-sector workers.
Better Work-Life Balance
Of course, working long hours is not the only reason people become depressed, but the study raises awareness that it can play a role, says Randy Auerbach, PhD, who researches depression at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.
Auerbach said the number of cases of depression found were reasonable for this population, and that the researchers did a good job accounting for other factors that may contribute to depression, such as economic status, alcohol use, social support, and gender.
The reality is that employees are often driven to work more to hold on to the job and income they have. If it doesn't seem feasible to cut back on your hours, Auerbach says, then ask yourself, "What can I do to put my mental and physical well-being first?"
Longer work hours could result in less time with your loved ones and less time to invest in your self-care. Sleep often slides, as do plans to exercise and eat healthy foods. Time with family and friends may take a back seat.
Yet these are many of the healthy ways that buffer against stress and let people blow off steam.
"It's important to have periods with less pressure at work and shorter hours," Virtanen says. Her other tips for work-life balance include making a distinction between work and leisure, not skipping your vacation time, and taking care of your health, especially sleep and exercise.