Hard work never hurt anyone or can it? Actually it can, and the consequences can be fatal. Extensive study has been done in Japan on the deadly risks of overworking.
‘Koroshi’ which translates to death by overwork is mostly caused by stroke or heart attack due to stress and starvation. A survey of 10,000 Japanese workers showed the average person works at least 80 hours overtime a month putting them at grave risk.
But even if you don’t suffer a sudden, life-threatening incident at your desk, long hours can still cause numerous physical, mental and social problems.
A Kansas State University doctoral researcher found a link between workaholics and reduced well-being due to skipped meals and poor mental health through a self-reported depression score. The study considers a workaholic to be a person who works more than 50 hours per week.
Other indicators that someone is a workaholic includes spending more time at work than intended, working to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety or depression, deprioritizing hobbies and leisure activities, feeling stressed if you can’t work, thinking of ways to free up time to work and working so much that it impacts on your health.
If you can relate to any of those symptoms, here are three reasons that may change your relationship with work.
#1 Physical Health Suffers When Working Excessively
A workaholic puts their health at risk every week they put in excessive work hours. Those who over work usually have an increased amount of adrenaline in their bodies. Over time, increased levels can cause a narrowing of capillaries leading to the heart, an increase in blood cholesterol which the body can’t remove, an increase in deposits of plaque on artery walls and an increase in blood clotting tendency.
Excessive adrenaline causes fatigue which is the body’s warning sign. However, a workaholic may not observe the signs because they push themselves too hard and risk chronic fatigue.
Increased stress levels can lead to severe anxiety and panic attacks which result in increased heart activity and breathing difficulties. This places the heart under stress which can lead to stroke and heart attacks in the long term.
#2 Effects on Psychological Health
Research conducted by the University of Bergen and Nottingham Trent University proved workaholism impacts on mental health. Almost one third (32.7%) of workaholics met the criteria for ADHD criteria compared to 12.7% of non-workaholics. One quarter (25.6%) of workaholics met the criteria for OCD compared to just 8.7% of non- workaholics. One third (33.8%) of workaholics met the criteria for anxiety compared to 11.9% for non-workaholics. Depression was also higher for workaholics with 8.9% compared to 2.6%.
What’s not clear is whether genes, disorders leading to workaholism or workaholism causing disorders is to blame.
Severe fatigue is a sign of workaholism as are changed eating and sleeping habits, poor concentration, a lack of motivation, crying, exhaustion, and loss of libido. Workaholics will often think their depression is ‘burnout’ from working long hours. Even if they do recognise the symptoms are depression, they may not seek treatment due to a perceived stigma and shame. Without a diagnosis, depression can continue until it becomes chronic.
#3 Social Well Being Can Suffer
Your social life is one of the first victims of workaholism. If you are constantly working, you aren’t spending quality time with family or friends. Many workaholics would admit that even when they are physically present in a social situation, their mind is still on work. Not only are you not much fun to be around, but your social network also suffers. You lose friends when you constantly knock back invites and your family feel like they come a poor second to your work.
Because of the impact on their mental health, workaholics will isolate themselves from family and friends. In couples where one partner is a workaholic, the divorce rate is almost twice the average rate.
A Work-Life Balance Matters
Being a workaholic may seem to be productive, but research has shown that employees who don’t take their annual leave are less productive than others that do. Working while tired also has the same effect as consuming alcohol regarding reaction times and cognitive functioning. Having a work-life balance offers physical and mental health benefits. If you think you are at risk of being a workaholic, or that you feel you are experiencing symptoms of depression or burn-out, recognise the signs that indicate you need to take a step back from work and concentrate on other areas of your life.
If you need some assistance with your work-life balance, call
PeopleSense by Altius on 1300 307 912 or (08) 9388 9000, or contact us online