Study Links Working Overtime to Anxiety, Depression

Employees who work overtime are at increased risk of anxiety and depression, suggests a study in the June Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Elisabeth Kleppa and colleagues of the University of Bergen, Norway, analyzed data on work hours from a larger study of Norwegian men and women. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were assessed using a standard screening questionnaire. Anxiety and depression scores were compared for 1,350 workers who worked overtime, 41 to 100 hours per week; and approximately 9,000 workers who worked normal hours, 40 hours or less.

Working overtime was associated with higher anxiety and depression scores among both men and women. The rate of questionnaire scores indicating "possible" depression increased from about 9 percent for men with normal work hours to 12.5 percent for those who worked overtime.

For women, the rate of possible depression increased from 7 to 11 percent. In both sexes, rates of possible anxiety and depression were higher among workers with lower incomes and for less-skilled workers.

The relationship between overtime and anxiety/depression was strongest among men who worked the most overtime--49 to 100 hours per week. Men working such very long hours also had higher rates of heavy manual labor and shift work and lower levels of work skills and education.

Previous studies have raised possible health and safety concerns of working long hours; however, most studies of this issue have focused on the health effects of shift work, rather than overtime. Under European Union work rules, employees have the right to refuse to work more than 48 hours per week.

The study permits no conclusions about how working long hours leads to increased anxiety and depression. For more information, visit www.acoem.org.

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