Overtime Increases Risk for Depression and Anxiety in Women

Research has shown a direct link between long work hours and increased mental health problems. Depression, fatigue, and anxiety are common issues that cause reduced productivity and increased disability among the working population. To understand the correlation between excessive work hours and mental health impairment, M. Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, Finland, conducted a study that looked at how longer working hours affected the onset of depression and anxiety.

Nearly 3,000 full-time British civil servants, ranging in age from 44 to 66 years old, who were part of a larger study were examined for symptoms of depression and anxiety in 1997. Virtanen assessed the increase or decrease in working hours and the levels of anxiety and depression again in 2001 and 2004. The results revealed that individuals who had no evidence of mental health problems in 1997 were at increased risk for anxiety and depression in 2001 if they worked more than 55 hours per week. Specifically, each 10-hour increase in working hours was directly related to a 17% increase in risk for depression and a 22% higher risk for anxiety 5 years later.

Virtanen also discovered that women, who may feel additional stress from domestic and child-rearing responsibilities, were 40% more likely to develop depression and 31% more likely to develop anxiety when they worked 50 hours per week as opposed to those who worked only 40 hours. This suggests that women who work even minimal overtime are more vulnerable to mental health challenges. The study also revealed that women who worked overtime were more likely to have myocardial infarction, a risk factor for depression, than women who worked only 40 hours. However, this symptom was not evident in the men, regardless of the number of hours they worked. After evaluating all the evidence, Virtanen also found that overtime predicted a higher level of alcohol misuse among the men, but not among the women. Virtanen added, “If these associations are causal, the findings of the present study suggest that long working hours should be recognized as a potential risk factor for the development of anxiety and depression in women.”

Virtanen, M., Ferrie, J. E., Singh-Manoux, A., Shipley, M. J., Stansfeld, S. A., Marmot, M. G., Ahola, K., Vahtera, J., Kivimäki, M. Long Working Hours and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression: A 5-year Follow-up of the Whitehall II Study. Psychological Medicine 41.12 (2011): 2485-494. Print.

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Adele


    February 13th, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Working makes us stresses, not working makes us stressed. . . come on! We are women and we were born to stress out! That is the way it is. The men in our lives aren’t going to do it so here we are picking up the slack. I hate to tell you but that is the fate that is spelled out for most of us, so I think we are just going to have to get on with it and learn to deal with it. It is our reason for being, so to speak.

  • silas


    February 14th, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    We all have to work hard today to keep our jobs.
    I don’t think that this stress is only for women.
    Men feel that same stress, wondering how fast and far we have to run to keep our jobs and provide for our families.
    This is definitely not something that is gender specific.

  • shane


    February 15th, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    everybody deserves some time off and working continuously while still worrying about the chores at home could really wear women out.

  • Mark jones

    Mark jones

    February 15th, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    Women do tend to take on a lot more of the stress in the home than men do but most of the time it is out of necessaity. My wife jokingly says that sometimes she has to put a mirror in front of my mouth to check to see if I am breathing because I am so laid back. This is true of me, I see that, and do not take offense to it. I hate that she has to get so stressed over the houseold and stuff but this is just me and I am not going to change and I know that there are a lot more men just like me out there.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.