CANBERRA, Australia — Employers take note: having your staff work overtime could be doing more harm than good. A new study finds that working more than 39 hours a week is actually detrimental to one’s health.
Published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, researchers from Australian National University compiled previously-released government data from about 8,000 employed Australian men and women aged 24 to 64.
The researchers found on average that 40 or more hours of work a week — typically considered full-time employment— can lead to mental health issues. This was especially true when combined with other commitments.
“Long work hours erode a person’s mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly,” lead researcher Dr. Huong Dinh said in a press release.
In large part due to additional time constraints, such as caregiving, it was found that the average healthy work limit for women was only 34 hours a week. For men, the limit was found to be as high as 47 hours a week.
“Given the extra demands placed on women, it’s impossible for women to work long hours often expected by employers unless they compromise their health,” said Dinh.
This study helps shatter a widely-held belief that it is healthy to work up to 48 hours a week. That theory based upon an 80-year-old standard set by the International Labour Organization.
One conclusion that can be taken from the study is that women are disadvantaged in many senses in the workforce. Since they cannot work for as many hours without compromising their health, men often get better and higher paying positions.
In Australia, over 40% of employed individuals work 40-plus hours a week.