Overtime Work May Be Worse for Women

Study Shows Long Hours Worsen Health Habits More in Women Than in Men

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on July 12, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

July 12, 2006 -- Burning the midnight oil at work? Those extra hours affect women worse than men, a new British study shows.

So says Daryl O'Connor, PhD. He's a senior lecturer in health psychology at England's University of Leeds.

O'Connor and colleagues studied 193 men and 229 women who were, on average, about 40 years old. Participants completed surveys about their work environment, personality, height, weight, and other demographic information. They also kept diaries of everything they ate for four weeks.

Several negative health patterns stood out for women who worked long hours:

  • More high-fat and high-sugar snacks
  • More caffeine consumption
  • More smoking
  • Less exercise

None of those patterns were seen in men. "For men, working longer hours had no negative impacts on these health behaviors," write O'Connor and colleagues.

Too Busy to Drink?

Men and women did share one response to long work hours: They drank less alcohol. Maybe they just didn't have the time.

The survey doesn't explain why the workers behaved the way they did.

Other findings showed that both men and women in chronically high-stressstress work environments were likely to snack between meals. And all workers, even those in mellower work settings, snacked more when their day included one or more hassles, such as losing their keys or arguing with a co-worker.

There's nothing inherently wrong with snacking. But you probably don't want to wreck your calorie budget every time your workday goes a little haywire.

Fruit, low-fat yogurt, or a bit of natural-style peanut butter on lower-fat, higher-fiber crackers are good workplace alternatives to fatty, sugary fare.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Economic and Social Research Council, "Effects of Stress on Eating Behavior: An Integrated Approach." News release, Economic and Social Research Council. WebMD Weight Loss Clinic: "Easy, Healthy Workplace Snacks."
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