Overworking can lead to depression

A recent British study has found out what many have suspected: working long hours increases your risk for depression. This study was conducted as a follow up to an earlier study and the results, while not shocking, do have important ramifications for the workforce.

Episode at work after a long day. Graphic by Caitlin Lewis.

The study looked at white collar workers from the age of 33-55. The sample used was a specialized sample taken of only employees from the London-based Civil Service department. The study had a 73% response rate, meaning the total number of participants was over 10,000.

The study used a computerized version of the University of Michigan’s Composite International Diagnostic Interview. The study then examined the results to the self-administered test comparing them to the DSM-III-R guidelines for major depressive episodic disorder.

The study found that employees who worked more than 11 hours a day were at higher risk of suffering from a major depressive episode than employees that worked less than 11 hours a day. In fact, their risk of a major depressive episode doubled when compared to other employees.

What makes this study a breakthrough is that it counteracts previous studies. These studies found that socio-economic status reduced the likelihood of depressive disorders. Psychologists previously found that socio-economic status played little to no role in the correlations of over working and depression. This means the CEO who works 11 hours a day trying to get their bonus at the end of the year and a normal office worker working overtime to finish up a project shared the same chance of getting major depressive disorder. These findings did not come to light until researchers adjusted the data to compensate for the level of income.

The data used correlation statistics to determine the trending increased likelihood of depression among workers who overwork. Though the data looks solid, it is always important to remember that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. While the research is based on previous work and accepted methods of diagnosing chances of episodic depression, it is important to remember that other factors could be at play. This being said, the data seems to just confirm something that is common sense.

Major depressive episodes are a serious medical concern and just one of the results of overworking. Other medical issues of overworking are heart diseases and a decline in cognitive skills.

While this study has discovered what many people have already known about working too much, it is important to note that women, minority groups and people unable to work or without health care are still those most at risk for major depressive episodes. This latest research reaffirms that all work and no play is certainly dangerous.