I hope it’s not a big surprise that too much work is bad for you. I know I harp on it all the time, but there’s plenty of research to back it up.
I recently came across a great article by Nancy Shute on the effect of long hours on depression. See http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0030719. The key finding is pretty stark: “People who worked 11 hours a day or more, more than doubled their risk of major depression compared with colleagues putting in eight hours a day.”
That’s only three hours a day – and it doubles your chance of depression. The interesting thing about this research is that they found results across all socio-economic classes. So those white-collar executives who get a flat salary and put in super-long hours are NOT immune from the effects of long hours.
Those extra hours – about three a day – have to come from somewhere. Do they come from family time? Sleep? Relaxation? You need all of these.
We can all put up with on super-long day and bounce back. It’s the constant, non-stop long days that can literally kill you. People who work long hours non-stop are obviously more sleep-deprived, have a higher risk of heart disease, and reduced cognitive function. All in all, long hours can kill you.
At a minimum, it can make you miserable and depressed.
Depression is extremely serious and should not be dismissed as temporary sadness. Depression can affect everything in your life – and in the lives of the people you love.
You Can Also Work Too Little
Sometimes people hear the phrase “Relax Focus Succeed” and think I am advocating sitting on the couch all day doing nothing. I am absolutely NOT recommending that. People need work. We need to feel worthwhile, and that we contribute something to society.
We are now well into the fourth year of this recession and unemployment for some people has been dragging on a long time. And with that unemployment is a dramatic increase in depression. See http://www.livescience.com/13710-unemployment-depression-identity-job-search.html and http://www.livescience.com/13496-unemployment-stress-job.html.
Whether it’s you or your spouse, lack of work puts a huge strain on people. And that leads to all kinds of health problems.
I’m not sure what makes human beings different from all other animals. We get to choose what we do every day. You might think we’d choose to sit by a calm lake and fish all day, every day. But that’s not the case.
As social beings, we need to feel that we’re part of society and that we contribute our share. Yes there are exceptions. But let’s discuss things from the rule and not the exception. Overwhelmingly, people like to have a job, go do something at a “place of work,” and have a life outside the house. It’s normal and natural.
It’s a slightly different subject, but many people love their jobs so much that they can’t see how they are hurting themselves and their relationships by working too much. So they work and work and work.
So, whether the boss forces you to work long hours, or your choose to do it yourself, it’s still bad for you!
And working too little is bad for you.
Both lead to depression and imbalance in our lives. Sometimes we can control that imbalance and sometimes we can’t. But in either case, we can take action to improve our perspective on things. We can stop each day and re-focus ourselves. Trust me, I know how hard it is to get out of a depression funk. And I know how it feels to believe you have to work non-stop.
The goal is balance. Somewhere in the middle of all this perspective and balance. But balance never just happens: We need to work on it regularly if we value it and desire it.
Begin today. It’s never too late.