Long work hours, weekend working and depressive symptoms in men and women: findings from a UK population-based study

 Background

Globalised and 24/7 business operations have fuelled demands for people to work long hours and weekends. Research on the mental health effects of these intensive temporal work patterns is sparse, contradictory or has not considered gender differences. Our objective was to examine the relationship between these work patterns and depressive symptoms in a large nationally representative sample of working men and women in the UK.

Method The current study analysed data from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, of 11 215 men and 12 188 women in employment or self-employment at the time of the study. Ordinary least squares regression models, adjusted for potential confounders and psychosocial work factors, were used to estimate depressive symptoms across categories of work hours and weekend work patterns.

Results Relative to a standard 35–40 hours/week, working 55 hours/week or more related to more depressive symptoms among women (ß=0.75, 95% CI 0.12 to 1.39), but not for men (ß=0.24, 95% CI −0.10 to 0.58). Compared with not working weekends, working most or all weekends related to more depressive symptoms for both men (ß=0.34, 95% CI 0.08 to 0.61) and women (ß=0.50, 95% CI 0.20 to 0.79); however, working some weekends only related to more depressive symptoms for men (ß=0.33, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.55), not women (ß=0.17, 95% CI −0.09 to 0.42).

Conclusion Increased depressive symptoms were independently linked to working extra-long hours for women, whereas increased depressive symptoms were associated with working weekends for both genders, suggesting these work patterns may contribute to worse mental health.

  1. Gillian Weston1,
  2. Afshin Zilanawala1,2,
  3. Elizabeth Webb3,
  4. Livia A Carvalho4,
  5. Anne McMunn1
  1. Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
  2. Human Development and Family Science, Oregon State University,Corvallis, Oregon, USA
  3. Department of Clinical Pharmacology, William Harvey Research Institute,
  4. Queen Mary University of London, London, UK

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