LONDON: Men and women who work on weekends may be more likely to develop depression, a UK study suggests.
Although a growing number of people worldwide are working longer hours as more businesses operate 24/7, it's not clear how evaporating "off time" is impacting workers' mental health, researchers note in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
For the current study, researchers examined nationally representative survey data from 11,215 men and 12,188 women working in the UK between 2010 and 2012. Almost half of the women worked less than 35 hours a week, while the majority of men worked longer hours. Only half of the women worked at least some weekends, compared with two-thirds of the men.
Compared to those working a "standard" 35- to 40-hour work week, men working less had more symptoms of depression. Women, however, had a greater risk of depression only when they worked at least 55 hours a week. Women working most weekends had more depression symptoms than those who only worked weekdays. Men had more depression symptoms with weekend work when they also disliked their working conditions.
"The results of our study show gender differences in the links between long and irregular hours and depressive symptoms," said study leader Gillian Weston, a public health researcher at University College London.
"There are many social, economic and health benefits to be gained from working in good jobs, so we don't want women to be excluded from the workforce. Instead, employers and family members should consider how they can be more supportive of those who work long or irregular hours."
The study wasn't designed to prove whether the timing of shifts or number of hours worked in per week might directly impact the risk of depression. Researchers also relied on workers to report their own symptoms of depression.
Even so, the results suggest employers should realise long hours and weekend shifts may compromise workers' mental health for many reasons, including the potential to take away time from social activities, personal lives and rest, said Sabir Giga, a researcher at Lancaster University.