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Washington: Employees who work for more than 50 hours a week may be harming their mental and physical health, a new study has warned.
Researchers from Kansas State University found a preliminary link between workaholics and reduced physical and mental well-being.
Sarah Asebedo, doctoral student in the University, working with colleagues Sonya Britt and Jamie Blue used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 for the study.
“We looked at the association between workaholism and physical and mental well-being,” Asebedo said.
“We found workaholics – defined by those working more than 50 hours per week – were more likely to have reduced physical well-being, measured by skipped meals.
“Also, we found that workaholism was associated with reduced mental well-being as measured by a self-reported depression score,” she said.
The link between workaholism and well-being has been assumed for years; however, there was a lack of research supporting the link until this study, Asebedo said.
To understand why people work overtime even when they know it is not good for their well-being, the researchers used Gary S Becker’s Theory of the Allocation of Time, a mathematical analysis for choice measuring the cost of time.
“This theory suggests that the more money you make, the more likely you are to work more. If you are not engaged in work-related activities, then there is a cost to the alternative way in which time is spent,” Asebedo said.
“Even if you understand the negative consequences to workaholism, you may still be likely to continue working because the cost of not doing so becomes greater,” she said.
According to Asebedo, Becker’s theory suggests that not only can working more make a person wealthier but it also creates less leisure time to spend money. As income increases a person may be more likely to work more and create an unhealthy habit.
She advises workaholics to be aware of the effect excessive work has on their physical and mental well-being and to be prepared for what they can do to mitigate or counteract the effects during busy work periods.
Data for the study was taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort, a nationally representative sample of 12,686 young men and women in US who were interviewed on an annual basis from 1979 through 1994 and are currently interviewed on a biennial basis.