How many hours do you work each week? Most full time workers in Australia work somewhere between 38-40 hours, but many work significantly more, whether they’re on or off the clock.
A new study has linked working more than 39 hours/week to an increased risk of physical and mental health problems (1). The researchers suggest that more needs to be done in order to change attitudes about long working hours, including supporting male family members in taking on caregiving duties without fear of prejudice. With womens inequality in terms of pay and autonomy constantly under scrutiny of late, the authors of the study also suggest that working hours for females should only be around 34hrs/week, given the extra unpaid labour that is performed during caregiving or home duties. (2)
While the extra mental, emotional and physical stress of working long hours is almost a given, the study highlights that excess time spent at work reduces the amount of the day that can be given over to exercise, relaxation and eating a healthy diet.
While working an appropriate number of hours is essential to support health, taking time to relax when not at work should also be observed. Meaningful relaxation may include physical activity, meditation, mindfulness, time spent with family and friends, and other activities that support mental and physical wellbeing. This helps to lower cortisol levels, and promote the activity of neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA and dopamine.
Long hours spent at work usually results in less sleep, and this is something that must be addressed. Sleep restriction or deprivation is associated with increased risk of chronic disease including obesity, depression, autoimmunity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (3).
Manage your stress naturally
A certain amount of stress is required for the human body to operate at optimal levels. It forces us to adapt and positively influences health and wellbeing. However, society often demands a much higher workload than we are equipped to deal with, and chronic stress is the result. Making time to relax is very important, but what else can be done to support physical, mental and emotional health? Good nutrition is essential: Eat plenty of fresh food, clean protein and good fats. Herbs such as St John’s Wort, Valerian, Withania, Licorice, and Passionflower support the adrenals and nervous system.
Hope for the future
With the rise in chronic disease and mental health issues due to work related stress, it is likely that we can expect a change in government and individual company policy in relation to maximum working hours in Australia. Many large organisations no longer authorise overtime, and with new research supporting the use of a 3 or 4 day working week, it seems that positive changes will be made to working hours within the next decade (4).
If you would like any more information on how to manage stress naturally, please contact us.
(1)Dinh. H et al (2017). Hour-glass ceilings: Work-hour thresholds, gendered health inequities. Social Science and Medicine. (176) 42-51.
(2) Pash. C. (2017). Science Alert. Study Suggests That Working Over 39 Hours a Week is Bad For You. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencealert.com/study-suggests-working-more-than-39-hours-a-week-is-bad-for-you
(3) Center for Disease Control. (2013). Sleep and Chronic Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html
(4) ABC News. (2016). Three-day working week provides best cognitive function for over 40s, Melbourne study finds. Retrieved from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-19/proof-that-working-less-is-actually-better-for-your-brain/7337436