My husband is a self-admitted work-a-holic. Before kids, he would easily put in 12-14 hour days at work, and continue getting calls, pages, emails, etc. after he got home. Fortunately a lot of that has changed since we had kids, but he’s still someone who works a lot because he’s passionate about his job and loves what he does. However, he might be the exception rather than the rule.
I have friends who put in very long hours because their job demands it. They like their jobs, but wouldn’t necessarily say they “love” them. They work so many hours because there’s just so much to get done. It’s stressful for those who have kids and are trying to balance work and family, but it’s also stressful for those who don’t because they still want to have a work-life balance. I’ve had long talks with a few of these friends because their job situations are stressful and to a certain extent, make them sad. The results of a new study seem to validate the idea that working long hours is tied to higher rates of depression.
The study, published in the journal PLoS One, collected data on British workers over a 5-year period. Although they had no mental issues at the beginning of the study, “ultimately, the men and women who routinely worked 11 hours a day or more had more than double the risk of developing depression compared with those who usually worked eight hours or less.” Another recent study found that occupational workers who put in the most overtime had the highest rates of anxiety and depression. It’s easy to see why there could be a link between work hours and mental well-being. Working more means you have less time for friends and family, less time for personal activities like exercise, and less time for sleep. So what can you do?
Some jobs require more hours at certain times of the year (such as an accountant during tax season or a factory worker when a big job is in the pipeline), and the best you can do is prepare for those times and try to get through them. If it seems like there’s no end in sight to the long hours and it’s starting to take its toll, consider your options: Can you find another job that’s not so demanding? Can you talk to your employer to see if there’s a way to compromise and work less hours? Can you squeeze in a workout at lunch to help you de-stress during the day? Can you get out of work a little early a few days a week to compensate for those long days? Most employers want their staff to be happy and healthy, so hopefully they will try to work with you to come up with a solution that works for everyone. In the end, you have to decide if the long hours are having too much of a negative effect on your health, or if maybe there’s a way to restructure your job to make it more tolerable.
Have you ever been in a situation where working so much had a negative impact on your health? How did you handle it?
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