How Working Long Hours & Weekends Affects Mental Health

By Kelly Burch 02/28/19

Working longer hours during the week increased depression symptoms in women, according to a new study.

an overworked woman taking a mental health break at work

Working longer hours is associated with increased risk of depression in women, but not men, while working weekends increased symptoms of depression in both genders, according to a recent study. 

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that men who worked all or most weekends had 3.4% more symptoms of depression than men who didn’t work weekends, while women who worked weekends experienced 4.6% more depressive symptoms than their counterparts who didn’t work weekends. 

Interestingly, working more hours during the week increased depression symptoms in women, but not in men. Women who worked 55 hours a week had 7.3% more depressive symptoms than those who worked 30-40 hours. 

Lead study author Gill Weston told Science Daily that there are likely social aspects at play to explain the difference between how men and women respond to extra work hours. 

"This is an observational study, so although we cannot establish the exact causes, we do know many women face the additional burden of doing a larger share of domestic labor than men, leading to extensive total work hours, added time pressures and overwhelming responsibilities," Weston said. 

The results also likely have to do with the type of jobs that people are working, she added. The study found that people of both genders who worked weekends were less satisfied with their careers and were more likely to be doing low-skilled work. 

"Additionally women who work most weekends tend to be concentrated in low-paid service sector jobs, which have been linked to higher levels of depression,” Weston said. 

She added that factors outside of work hours also contribute to the risk of depression. 

"Women in general are more likely to be depressed than men, and this was no different in the study," she said. "Independent of their working patterns, we also found that workers with the most depressive symptoms were older, on lower incomes, smokers, in physically demanding jobs, and who were dissatisfied at work."

Weston suggested that having more flexible schedules could help counteract depressive symptoms that are connected to work, particularly for women. 

"We hope our findings will encourage employers and policymakers to think about how to reduce the burdens and increase support for women who work long or irregular hours—without restricting their ability to work when they wish to. More sympathetic working practices could bring benefits both for workers and for employers—of both sexes."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.