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Women Working More Than 55 Hours/Week At Risk Of Depression Compared To Men

The expansion of the global and gig economies has increased the need to work outside standard office hours

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Working very long hours – more than 55 hours a week – is linked to a heightened risk of depression in women. An observational study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health came to this conclusion.

The expansion of the global and gig economies has increased the need to work outside standard office hours. Although this has been associated with poorer physical health its effect on mental health is less well known.

This study focused on data for 11,215 men and 12,188 women from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) as this included information on employment.

Men tended to work longer hours than women: almost half the men worked longer than the standard 35–40 hours/week compared with less than a quarter of the women, and nearly half of women worked less than 35 hours/week, compared with 15 percent of men. 

Education, income and occupational classification were positively associated with work hours for men and women; however, whereas having children and being married were negatively associated with long work hours for women, the opposite was found for men. 

Depressive symptoms for the temporal work patterns, covariates, and work conditions were found in women working more than 55 hours/week and those working on weekends, while there was no difference for men working under same conditions. 

Generally, for both the genders, the number of symptoms were higher for older workers, smokers, and participants with the lowest household incomes, chronic illness, job and income dissatisfaction, very physical jobs and the lowest work autonomy. 

Results suggest that depressive symptoms were slightly higher among weekend workers compared with non-weekend workers. Men who worked weekends had higher job satisfaction than those who did not work weekends, so higher levels of depressive symptoms emerged once this was taken into account.

Conclusion

The study shows a link between atypical temporal work patterns and depressive symptoms, but there are gender differences in these associations. The poorest mental health is experienced by women working extra-long hours and most/all weekends, and by men with poor psychosocial work conditions working at weekends. The survey findings should encourage employers and policymakers to consider interventions aimed at reducing women’s burdens without restricting their full participation in the workforce, and at improving psychosocial work conditions.



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