Working nine to five is no longer a way to make a living – one study last year found that just 6% of people in the UK now adhere to traditional working hours. While many of us are continuing to work a 40-hour week (just more flexibly), many others are working longer hours, thanks to globalisation, 24/7 business operations and zero-hour contracts – and they're experiencing mental ill-health as a result. Women are more likely to suffer the psychological strain. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that women who work more than 55 hours a week are more likely to experience depression than men who work the same long hours.
Based on data from more than 20,000 British adults over 10 years, researchers found that women who worked 55+ hours a week were 7.3% more likely to show depressive symptoms than women who worked 35-40 hours, but the same pattern wasn't evident among men. Working weekends also had a more adverse impact on women – 4.6% reported debilitating low moods as a consequence, versus 3.4% of men.
One explanation is the "potential double-burden experienced by women when their long hours in paid work are added on to their time in domestic labour," the researchers suggested. Household chores and caring responsibilities – which we know still aren't being divided equally in heterosexual relationships – often dominate any free time that overworked women do have. It's no wonder our mental health is suffering. "Our findings should encourage employers and policymakers to consider interventions aimed at reducing women’s burdens without restricting their full participation in the workforce, and at improving psychosocial work conditions," the academics concluded. Too right.
Ahead, three women who know all too well about the connection between overwork and poor mental health share their experience.