Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Working Overtime May Increase Your Depression

Working overtime has become the common norm nowadays. Working hours extends late into the night. In fact, most of the jobs demand a working time of eleven hours. You feel completely enervated at the end of the day’s work, only to be ready to take up the workload the next day. As expected, the constant slogging takes its toll not only on the body but also on the mind as well.

A recent study reveals that people who continuously go through an eleven hours working schedule routinely carry twice the risks of suffering from depression than people who maintain an eight hours working schedule.
But still, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest a direct relationship between depression and working overtime.

The current research in 1991 selected more than 2000 civil servants in Britain in the average age group of 47. All of them had no prior mental health problems. Out of them, 66 persons showed symptoms of severe depression during the check-up six years later.

The study showed that young women in the lower hierarchy of civil service who had a history of chronic disease and took a moderate amount of alcohol were the most susceptible group. The employees who maintained a working schedule of more than eleven hours had twice the risk of falling into depression than those who spent around eight hours in the office.

The findings of this case study can be found at PLoS ONE.


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Depression and working overtime

Depression can result in both due to physical as well as emotional reasons. Genetics also plays a role in it. At present, stress due to the pressure of work is one of the prime reasons for depression. And when the employee has to endure it for a long time, then it takes a toll on the mental make-up of the person. This invariably manifests in the form of depression.

Marianna Virtanen, PhD who is a team leader of the Work and Mental Health team at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki says, “Working overtime or spending too much time at the workplace not only robs you off the time to relax and sleep but also comes in the way of maintaining a healthy and proper relationship with your family. This, in turn, creates an emotional problem which can cause depression.”

Nowadays, people spend too much time in their workplace. The present uncertain state of the economy forces them to work overtime. They also take up multiple jobs to earn more. Needless to say, it affects the body and mind.

But how do you gauge its effect on your mental state or to be more specific, if you are suffering from depression due to it?

Difficulty in getting sleep, stress, and irritation are some of the symptoms of depression. You may not find pleasure in things that you normally enjoy doing. You may have difficulty in concentrating and commit more errors.

Virtanen thinks that workaholics may be less susceptible to depression as they derive pleasure in work, unlike others who have to make an effort to work for long hours.

This study was conducted in the 1990’s. At present, technological advancements have made it easier to come to terms with the workload. The working environs have become better. So, people may not find it to be as stressful. Hence, people, in fact, may be tempted to put in long hours of work.

But the study only took into account the people who hold white-collar jobs. So, it is not known whether it would hold true in case of employees working in the blue-collar or private sectors as well.

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Why should you avoid working overtime?

While it is true that working overtime is not the only cause of depression, some evidence points out that it does have a great bearing on it. According to Randy Auerbach, Ph.D., who researches depression at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass says, “Long working hours and too much pressure at work plays an important role in people falling into depression and this study substantiates it.”

He also said that the number of people who succumb to depression was not very high. The research also took into account other factors like economic status, social support, sex, use of alcohol etc. that may be behind the depression.

It is true due to the recession economy; people give more priority to their job, thereby putting much more pressure on their health. Circumstantially, they find it difficult to curtail the amount of work-load they have to take and end up working overtime. 

In such cases, when it is impossible to reduce the number of hours at the workplace, you should try to find ways and means to look after your physical and mental health properly. It could be some recreational or creative activity that provides you joy and keeps your spirit high.

As you continue working overtime, you get to spend lesser time with your family and friends or indulge in other personal activities. Self-care activities like exercise or eating healthy foods may no longer be at the top of your priority list. Yet, these things are very essential for the proper management of stress.

“Avoiding long working hours and reducing the pressure of work is very important to keep depression at bay,” concluded Virtanen.

So, shouldn’t you strive to avoid working overtime or at least not to do it unless it is really essential, for you never know when you would get trapped in depression?

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