Women who work long hours at higher risk of depression

Women who work for more than 55 hours per week are at a higher risk of depression than men who work for the same amount of time, a study has found.

Women who worked “extra-long” hours had 7.3% more depressive symptoms than those who worked a standard 35-40 hour week, according to analysis by UCL and Queen Mary University of London.

Weekend working was linked to a higher risk of depression among both sexes, with women who worked for all or most weekends reported 4.6% more depressive symptoms than those who worked only on weekdays. Men showed 3.4% more indicators of depression if they worked all or most weekends than those who worked Monday to Friday.

The analysis of data from 20,000 employees, taken from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, showed that two-thirds of men worked on weekends compared with half of women.

Participants were asked to report any depressive symptoms such as feeling worthless or incapable using a self-completion validated general health questionnaire.

The long work hours, weekend working and depressive symptoms in men and women study, which has been published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found those who worked all or most weekends were more likely to be in low skilled positions and feel less satisfied with their job than those who only worked Monday to Friday or some weekends.

Gill Weston, the study’s lead author and a PhD candidate at the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care, said women who work most weekends tend to be in low-paid service sector jobs, where depression is more prevalent.

Previous research by the University of Manchester found that those in low-paid roles are at higher risk of developing depression than those who are unemployed.

“This is an observational study, so although we cannot establish the exact causes, we do know many women face the additional burden of doing a larger share of domestic labour than men, leading to extensive total work hours, added time pressures and overwhelming responsibilities,” Weston said.

“Independent of their working patterns, we also found that workers with the most depressive symptoms were older, on lower incomes, smokers, in physically demanding jobs, and who were dissatisfied at work.

“We hope our findings will encourage employers and policy-makers to think about how to reduce the burdens and increase support for women who work long or irregular hours – without restricting their ability to work when they wish to.”

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