Credit: CollegeDegrees360

Manager working long hours? You're more likely to be depressed and have a stroke

Being stuck in the middle while chained to your desk is not good for your health, according to two studies.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 20 Aug 2015

If you’re a manager working long hours you might want to think about the pressures you’re under. Managers and supervisors are more likely to be depressed, while long hours puts you at greater risk of strokes.

Of people in executive or managerial positions, 18% reported symptoms of depression, compared to 12% of the workers below them, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Managers were also twice as likely to say they suffered from anxiety.

The findings were based on a 2001-2 survey of almost 22,000 Americans who were aged 18 or over and in full-time work. The researchers then divided people into three pretty broad categories: business owners, who were both self-employed and earned more than $71,500 (£46,000); managers and supervisors; and workers.

So it doesn’t distinguish, then, between the pressures faced by a CEO or a bottom-rung middle manager. Nor does it analyse what caused the differing rates of depression. Nonetheless, the paper, published in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness pointed to previous research that shows people without much scope for decision-making were more likely to be depressed – hence why a middle manager without much power may feel the strain more.

The researchers therefore argued that people looking into public health need to take into account job status as well as more typically-used socioeconomic measures (disadvantaged people being more likely to suffer mental health problems).

And as if that wasn’t enough for your daily dose of business-related medical gloom, there is yet more evidence that working long hours is A Bad Thing. Working more than 40 to 48 hours a week increases your risk of a stroke by 10%, compared to a 35-40 hour week, according to data covering more than half a million people.

That risk increases by 33% for people slogging away for over 55 hours. Overall, there were six strokes per 1,000 employees in that group, compared to fewer than five in the 35-40 hour cohort, according to the study published in medical journal The Lancet.

The researchers admitted they didn’t yet know why this link exists, but suggested a few possibilities. Working long hours could mean more stress and/or sitting down for long periods, both factors that increase stroke risk. Employees with a heavy workload are also more prone to heavy drinking and likely to ignore warning signs of disease.

This is also an opportune moment to remind employers that long hours do not necessarily equal more work – or productive work, for that matter. As Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz wrote today, in a blogpost sparked by the debate over Amazon’s intense culture, ‘The research is clear: beyond ~40–50 hours per week, the marginal returns from additional work decrease rapidly and quickly become negative.’

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