Working long hours ‘linked to depression in women but not men’

Women who clock up more hours at work are at a higher risk of depression, new research suggests.

Those who worked more than 55 hours per week had more symptoms of the condition than women working a standard 35- to 40-hour week, the study found.

However, this was not the case for men.

The researchers called for greater support for women working long hours in the workplace, noting many also deal with significant pressures at home.

“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,” lead author Gill Weston, from UCL, said.

Data from more than 20,000 adults was analysed as part of the study, published in the BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Women who worked longer than 55 hours weekly had 7.3% more depressive symptoms, such as feeling worthless or incapable, than women working standard hours.

“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,” Ms Weston said.

“More sympathetic working practices could bring benefits both for workers and for employers – of both sexes.”

Weekend working was linked to a higher risk of depression among both men and women.

Women who worked for all or most of the weekend had 4.6% more depressive symptoms on average than women working only weekdays.

Among men, this figure was 3.4%.

The study was carried out by researchers at UCL and Queen Mary University of London.

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