You might want to rethink doing those long workweeks or rendering overtime work every so often.
A new study from Australian National University revealed that people working more than 39 hours a week are putting their health at risk, including the danger of developing mental health issues.
How Many Hours Constitute A Healthy Workweek?
The research, based on data from 8,000 working individuals as part of the survey Household, Income, and Labor Dynamics in Australia, also showed that the healthy work limit every week should be set at 39 hours instead of the 48 hours internationally set about eight decades ago.
“Long work hours erode a person’s mental and physical health,” warned lead study researcher Dr. Huong Dinh in a statement. “[This is] because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly.”
Around two in three Australians who were employed full-time worked more than 40 hours weekly.
The long hours, Dinh said, proved more problematic for women since they performed unpaid work at home. While being as skilled as men in general, women maintained lower-paid jobs and less autonomy — add to the fact that they devoted time to domestic work, he explained.
For men, the healthy work limit was substantially higher, or up to 47 hours, since they typically spent much less time on care or domestic duties.
The findings were discussed in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
The Debate On Long Work Hours
In Australia, national guidelines specify that companies must not ask full-time workers to render more than 38 hours a week unless the added hours are “reasonable,” which could be defined differently among organizations. But factors to be considered include family responsibility, health and safety risks, and typical work patterns in their specific industry.
UN conventions starting 1919, on the other hand, mandate a 48-hour week at a maximum.
Based on the American Time Use Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans ages 25 to 54 who lived in households with children under age 18 spent an average of 8.8 hours working or doing related activities.
A separate Gallup report back in 2014, however, demonstrated that that the average time worked by full-time workers had ticked up to 46.7 hours weekly or almost a full extra eight-hour day, but surprisingly, the report showed that people highly engaged in their work and logging over 40 hours still maintained “better overall well-being than actively disengaged workers who clock out at 40 hours.”
Recently, a separate study showed that jobs that involve carrying heavy loads and working night or rotating shifts could reduce a woman’s fertility. A team from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health made a link between reproductive ability and these occupational factors, although the underlying cause remains unknown. They deemed the risk, however, more pronounced in overweight, obese, and older females.
While the idea of flexible working hours have been more welcomed in recent years, some UK experts found it can actually be risky too since there’s the constant stress that accompanied being unable to switch off from work.