Workaholism May Co-Occur with Mental Health Conditions

Woman working late in dark officeWorkaholics 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.

Workaholics had significantly higher levels of mental health symptoms. Compared to a non-workaholic rate of 12.7%, 32.7% of workaholics met diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Twenty-five percent met OCD criteria, compared to just 8.7% of non-workaholics. Workaholics had symptoms of 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

References:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Schabner, D. (2016, May 1). Americans work more than anyone. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=93364&page=1
  4. 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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  • Craig

    Craig

    May 27th, 2016 at 10:01 AM

    and then again it could occur without any type of underlying mental health issue

  • tyler

    tyler

    May 27th, 2016 at 1:50 PM

    Thinking of ways that I can do more work to my schedule?
    lol heck no I am usually how to figure out how to get out of it.

  • Tobias

    Tobias

    May 28th, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    I know that my own inability to step away from work at times has led me to living with a great amount of stress and anxiety. I even know what is causing this and still, it is hard to step away from it at times. I know that to be in the best shape mentally I need to step away for a while, but then I think of the financial ramifications that this would mean and so I double down and do even more.

  • talitha

    talitha

    May 29th, 2016 at 10:05 AM

    I can see how you could be more prone to mental health issues if you are a workaholic and stress and anxiety are a large part of your day

  • Lee

    Lee

    May 30th, 2016 at 7:04 AM

    Being like this did negatively impact my first marriage in that ultimately it led to divorce. Both of us were like this, paying more attention to the things going on at work then we ever did to each other, and by the end of the marriage it just sort of seemed pointless for us to even continue to try. Neither of us were willing to give up our jobs which we loved, it just became pretty obvious that we loved our jobs and careers more than we loved each other. I am glad that we neevr made the decision to have kids so it was a pretty amicable split, but hard when realizing that you are second place to a job.

  • ivy

    ivy

    May 30th, 2016 at 3:49 PM

    There are many people who are so dead set on getting ahead in their professional life that they take very little time out to consider just ho terribly this could be effecting their personal life. This can be traumatic for relationships as well as personal well being. I would hate to look back on my life later on and see just how much I had neglected just to get a little but ahead at work.

  • Jose

    Jose

    June 12th, 2016 at 4:24 PM

    After 4 1/2 yrs of working 16 hrs a day. I understand but wen u have creditors and bills and needs u have to work i made decisions that now of course i have to stress its depressing. Now i got terminated and its back to worrying but not gave up just yet.

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