Overtime work can cause severe depression: study

PHOTO: The Straits Times

A six-year study conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and London University suggested that long hours of overtime work not only causes our bodies to become tired but also can cause depression.

The findings showed that those who work more than 11 hours are 2 1/2 times more susceptible to displaying symptoms of severe depression compared to those who work 7 to 8 hours a day.

The collaborative research team observed 2,000 middle-aged men and women in the United Kingdom for six years. Following a thorough analysis of research data, they reported a strong correlation between length of overtime work and risk of depression. The study included 1,626 males and 497 females with the average age being 47.

The correlation between overtime work and depression risk remained unchanged even when variables were controlled such as different lifestyle choices (alcohol consumption), tension level at work and socioeconomic factors.

Working overtime for long periods of time causes our bodies to release stress hormones called cortisol. Researchers reported that the heightened level of cortisol further leads to the development of a full-blown depressive disorder.

Doctor Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health views that overtime work can be beneficial to both individuals and society to some extent.

Dr. Virtanen, however, stresses the importance of society acknowledging the harmful effects of overtime work and the associated risk of developing depression. Current research findings were published in "PLoS One," an online journal of the American Public Library of Science.

Watch out for these signs of depression

  • Distancing themselves from friends and loved ones
  • Sleepiness
  • Constantly overworking
  • As long as it does not interfere with their daily functions, such as taking care of the kids or themselves, leave them alone.
  • Smoking more cigarettes
  • Extreme dieting
  • Non-drinkers who begin drinking daily may not be consuming high amounts of alcohol but are unable to relax unless they do so.
  • Does a friend who is usually in control of their emotions begin frequently displaying bursts of anger?
  • Take notice when someone starts moving away from things that were healthy for them, such as spending a healthy amount of time with friends or exercising, to doing nothing, for over a year.
  • These are some extreme statements of failure that can be a cause for concern for friends and family members and should be taken seriously.
  • Some of the things that we would normally shrug off, such as loud noises or children laughing, seem to create extreme distress for the individual, showing that the person may have too much going on in life.
  • "If this person suddenly starts giving away their personal things and is happy doing it - please beware. "That is not a good sign," said Dr Anasuya, adding that it could be a sign of suicidal tendencies.
  • Sometimes, no matter how much one tries to offer support or advice to a loved one, their words have no effect on the depressed individual.
  • Helpers need to know when to take a step back or may end up becoming depressed themselves.