All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Depressed Boy

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • Of late, I've been writing about some of the broader issues of life and this is reflected in at least a couple of my recent Shareposts (living a flatlined life; turning around the signs of burnout). I don't want to give the impression that most people feel miserable about their working life, so my aim is to provide a little more in the way of balance, but to point out what could happen if your relationship with work becomes a bit too cozy.


    Although many people are dissatisfied at work most work-satisfaction surveys actually show the majority are either satisfied or very satisfied with their job. Just because you have a grumble about a couple of issues doesn't mean your overall view of work isn't relatively positive. Break the stats down and it transpires that people who work with people (caregivers, teachers, etc.) are most likely to be satisfied in their work. It also seems the older you are the more likely you are to feel satisfied with work. People around the age of 65 top the list of ‘most satisfied' whereas those under the age of 29 are more likely to be dissatisfied.

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    As you might expect from such surveys a stack of information is also available about ethnic background, education, income, housing and more. I just wanted to point out that most people in employment have a pretty good relationship with their work. But - and there's always a but  - some people invest so much into their work that a distortion occurs, and this can lead to health problems.


    Holding down a regular job is generally considered to be highly beneficial for mental health. Working excessive hours has the opposite effect. For example, a recent study following the work habits of 2000 British civil servants, found a clear association between overtime and depression. Lead researcher, Dr. Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, says the risk of a major depressive episode is doubled in those working 11 hours or more a day compared to those working an average 7-8 hour day.


    A little regular overtime isn't harmful and is somewhat different to being shackled to the desk, sometimes for up to 18 hours a day. People who self-impose such hours sometimes do so in order to compensate for dissatisfaction with their personal lives. It seems clear that happiness at home affects work-life and vice versa, but investing more time in work to avoid personal issues may simply be storing up problems.




    Marianna Virtanen, Stephen A. Stansfield, Rebecca Fuhrer, Jane E. Ferrie, Mika Kivimäki. ‘Overtime Work as a Predictor of Major Depressive Episode: A 5-Year Follow-Up of the Whitehall II Study.' PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (1) e30719


Published On: February 06, 2012