Overtime linked to depression, anxiety

Employees who work overtime are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Working overtime was associated with higher anxiety and depression scores among both men and women, particularly among workers on lower incomes and less-skilled workers, Elisabeth Kleppa from the University of Bergen in Norway found.

A European Union directive entitled employees to refuse to work more than 48 hours a week. Previous research had shown overtime and long working hours lead to fatigue and stress, which raise the risk of illness and injury.

Even moderate overtime hours appear to raise the risk of “mental distress,” Kleppa wrote in the study. It could be that working overtime leads to increased “wear and tear,” or that people with characteristics predisposing to anxiety and depression, such as low education and job skills, are more likely to take jobs requiring long work hours, Kleppa wrote.

Kleppa assessed symptoms of anxiety and depression in a larger study of Norwegian men and women, using a standard questionnaire. She compared anxiety and depression scores for 1,350 employees who worked 41 to 100 hours per week and about 9,000 workers who worked 40 hours or less.

The link between overtime and anxiety and depression was strongest among men who worked as many as 100 hours per week. Men working such hours also had higher rates of heavy manual labor and shift work, and lower levels of work skills and education.