Working long hours is linked to depression in women

New research from UCL shows that women who work more than 55 hours a week are at a higher risk of depression, whilst weekend working raises depressive symptons for both men and women. 

The study of over 20,000 adults from Understanding Society found that women who worked extra-long hours had 7.3% more depressive symptons than women working a standard 35-40 hour week. Men working long hours during the week did not show the same increase in depression. Working all or most weekends was also linked to a higher risk of depression for both men and women. Women who worked at weekends had 4.6% more depressive symptons on average, compared to women working only weekdays. Men who worked most weekends had 3.4% more depressive symptons than men working only weekdays.   

The research showed differences in men and women's working patterns, particularly if they were parents. Women with children tended to work fewer hours than women without children, but fathers tended to work more hours than men without children. 

Two thirds of men worked weekends, compared with half of women. Those who worked at weekends were more likely to be in low-skilled work and to be less satisfied with their job and their earnings compared to those who worked Monday to Friday. 

Researcher Gill Weston, from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, explains why the research matters, "This is an observational study, so although we cannot establish the exact causes, we do know many women face the additional burden of doing a larger share of domestic labour than men, leading to extensive total work hours, added time pressures and overwhelming responsibilities. We hope our findings will encourage employers and policy-makers to think about how to reduce the burdens and increase support for women who work long or irregular hours – without restricting their ability to work when they wish to.

“More sympathetic working practices could bring benefits both for workers and for employers – of both sexes."

In the media

This research was featured in The Guardian: Women working longer hours more likely to be depressed - study