Workaholics Have Higher Rates Of Anxiety And Depression

By McCarton Ackerman 06/01/16

Researchers believe that taking work to "the extreme" may be a sign of deeper psychiatric issues.

Workaholics Have Higher Rates Of Anxiety And Depression

Similar to drug and alcohol addiction, work addiction could be a way of escaping from other issues. A new study out of Norway has found that workaholics are more likely than non-workaholics to suffer from anxiety and depression, among other psychiatric disorders.

The findings from researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway were published in the journal PLoS ONE and came from survey data of 16,426 working adults. Workaholism was assessed by rating participants on a scale of one to five on the Bergen Work Addiction Scale. The criteria included “you prioritize work over hobbies,” “you become stressed if you are prohibited from working” and “you work so much it has negatively influenced your health.” Anyone who scored four or five on at least four of the criteria were defined as a workaholic. 

The researchers noted that workaholics had higher rates of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to non-workaholics (33% vs. 13%). They were also three times more likely than non-workaholics to suffer from depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

“Taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues,” said researcher Schou Andreassen. “Whether this reflects overlapping genetic vulnerabilities, disorders leading to workaholism or, conversely, workaholism causing such disorders, remain uncertain.”

A separate 2014 study from the University of Bergen found that 8.3% of all Norwegians met the criteria for work addiction, with no differences between men and women. Commenting on that study, Andreassen noted that workaholism was unrelated to education or part-time employment versus full time, but that younger adults were more affected by workaholism than their older counterparts. The scientists for that study also discovered that workaholics had higher rates for three personality traits: agreeableness, neuroticism and intellect.

The issue of work addiction is worldwide. Research carried out in Spain in 2004 said the rate of work addiction is around 20% for residents of Japan and 11-12% for residents of Spain. The International Labour Organization (ILO) also noted that 8% of workers devote at least 12 hours per day to their job. A January 2015 study from the British Medical Journal found those who work more than 48 hours per week are more likely to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.