Longer hours linked to depression in women

Women who work longer hours are more prone to depression, says new study.

Mental Health - a women holding her head

 

Women who work more than 55 hours a week are at a higher risk of depression but this is not the case for men, according to a new study.

The UCL-led research with Queen Mary University of London involved over 20,000 adults and is published today in the BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. It found that after taking age, income, health and job characteristics into account, women who worked extra-long hours had 7.3% more depressive symptoms than women working a standard 35-40 week. Weekend working was linked to a higher risk of depression among both sexes.

Women who worked for all or most weekends had 4.6% more depressive symptoms on average compared to women working only weekdays. Men who worked all or most weekends had 3.4% more depressive symptoms than men working only weekdays.

“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 labour than men, leading to extensive total work hours, added time pressures and overwhelming responsibilities,” said Gill Weston who was lead author of the study.

“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.”

The study showed that men tended to work longer hours in paid work than women, and having children affected men’s and women’s work patterns in different ways: while mothers tended to work fewer hours than women without children, fathers tended to work more hours than men without children.

Two thirds of men worked weekends, compared with half of women. Those who worked all or most weekends were more likely to be in low skilled work and to be less satisfied with their job and their earnings than those who only worked Monday to Friday or some weekends.

The researchers also found that, independent of their working patterns, workers with the most depressive symptoms were older, on lower incomes, smokers, in physically demanding jobs and were dissatisfied at work.

Weston added: “We hope our findings will encourage employers and policy-makers 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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