It’s no shock that you might be bummed out when you get stuck in the office long after your coworkers. A new study, however, finds that all that overtime could be putting you on the fast track...to depression.
It’s not the first study to look at the link between hours worked and depression, but this time researchers used face-to-face interviews and the American Psychiatric Association’s guidelines to assess major depression. Over six years, they monitored 2,123 British civil servants, measuring the number of hours worked, risk factors for depression and major depressive episodes.
At the start of the study, none of the participants suffered from depression. After six years, three percent had experienced major depression in the previous year. Those who worked more than 11 hours a day had almost two-and-a-half times higher odds of developing major depression than those who worked seven to eight hours. Researchers took into account the participants’ background, illnesses, smoking habits, alcohol-use, job strain and social support system at work.
Researchers suggest that the link between overtime and depression might be caused by several factors. Overtime may increase family or relationship conflicts, elevate the stress hormone cortisol, or lead to sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep has been shown in previous studies to be related to depression.
While other careers may be depressing, the results of this study apply specifically to white-collar workers. Still, researchers noted that upper managers in the study were affected less, possibly due to a greater sense of control over hours worked.
So the next time your co-workers are headed to happy hour, think twice about chaining yourself to your desk. Don’t overdo the alcohol, though, because even that can worsen depression.