A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health discovered that working weekends heightens the risk of developing depression, especially for women.
The U.K. research examined survey data collected from the Understanding Society, the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS). It involved 11,215 men and 12,188 women who belonged to the U.K. workforce between 2010 and 2012. The data included occupational information and depressive symptoms of the workers, which were then measured by a validated general health questionnaire.
Aside from these, researchers also took into account other factors that may influence the outcome of the study, such as the participants’ marital status, age, earnings and how content they were with it, whether they had children, long-standing health conditions, and qualifications.
The reference was a standard working week of 35 to 40 hours. 41 to 55 hours a week is defined as long working hours, and 55 hours a week or more is categorized as extra-long working hours.
Almost 50 percent of the women involved in the study worked less than 35 hours per week, while most of the men worked longer hours. One-half of the females worked occasionally during weekends, compared with two-thirds of the men.
It was found that women working over 55 hours a week and those who worked most or every weekend exhibited more depressive symptoms than those women who worked standard hours. For men, working less or more than the standard didn’t have an effect on the number of depressive symptoms that they had.
But for both genders, there was one thing in common: working weekends increased the risk of depression.
Gillian Weston, a public health researcher at University College London and the leader of the study, said:
“The results of our study show gender differences in the links between long and irregular hours and depressive symptoms. There are many social, economic and health benefits to be gained from working in good jobs, so we don’t want women to be excluded from the workforce. Instead, employers and family members should consider how they can be more supportive of those who work long or irregular hours.”
“We need to move from a culture of unrealistic demands and low rewards to one in which workers are supported and valued, feel they have control, feel they have purpose, and are allowed sufficient time for recovery and leisure. This would benefit workers of both sexes and result in a happier and healthier workforce too – which of course would also benefit the employer.”
Sabir Giga, a researcher at Lancaster University in the UK, said that long hours take a toll on an individual’s mental health for a number of reasons. Working exceeding hours takes away from time spent in social activities, rest, and personal life.
Women, in particular, might feel this burden more since they have extra things to do when they come home from work, on top of the time they spent working at their jobs.
So what steps could a person take to reduce the risk of depression?
“This could be through taking regular breaks whilst working, prioritizing your work, learning to say ‘no’ and not over-committing yourself, working from home or flexibly when possible, communicating regularly and openly with family members, partners and colleagues, and meaningfully switching off and making the most of your time when away from work.