Workaholics are likely to experience symptoms of mental health diagnoses such as attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsion (OCD), according to a Norwegian study of more than 16,000 workers published in PLOS One.
American workers consistently report high levels of workaholism. Research has shown Americans work longer hours than any other nation in the industrialized world. An Ipsos Global and Reuters survey ranked the United States as the fifth most workaholic country in the world, with 43% of Americans letting paid vacation days go to waste.
How Workaholism Undermines Mental Health
Researchers at Norway’s University of Bergen looked at the connection between workaholism and mental health conditions in 16,426 working adults. Participants ranged in age from 16-75 years, with a median age of 37.3 years.
Participants answered demographic questions, then completed surveys designed to identify workaholism and psychiatric conditions. Those surveys included the Bergen Work Addiction Scale, the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Obsession-Compulsion Inventory-Revised.anxiety at a rate of 33.8%, compared to 11.9% for non-workaholics. Non-workaholics experienced depression at a rate of just 2.6%, compared to 8.9% among workaholics.
What Does Workaholism Mean?
To assess addictive workaholic tendencies, researchers used seven criteria ranked on a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (always). They diagnosed people who scored a 4 or 5 on four or more items as workaholics. The criteria included:
- Thinking about how to spend more time working
- Working to reduce feelings of depression, guilt, anxiety, or helplessness
- Being told by others to reduce work time, but not listening
- Spending more time on work than you intend
- Becoming stressed when working is not possible
- Prioritizing work over hobbies, exercise, and leisure time
- Working so often that it negatively impacts health
- Andreassen, C. S., Griffiths, M. D., Sinha, R., Hetland, J., & Pallesen, S. (2016). The relationships between workaholism and symptoms of psychiatric disorders: A large-scale cross-sectional study. PLOS ONE, 11(5). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152978
- Goldman, L. (2011, February 25). The 14 most workaholic countries in the world. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-with-the-most-workaholics-2011-2
- Schabner, D. (2016, May 1). Americans work more than anyone. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=93364&page=1
- Workaholism tied to psychiatric disorders. (2016, May 25). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/tuob-wtt052516.php
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