Put Down That Keyboard And Go Home – Guest Post by Alison

Today I am pleased to welcome Alison to my blog, to share this article with you.

Alison is a nutritional therapist who has worked in the health industry since 1987.  Alison lectures & trains on health issues, and is often to be found quoted in health magazines.

Long working hours and symptoms of anxiety and depression: a 5-year follow-up of the Whitehall II study [1]

Why are we so interested in civil servants?

British civil servants are an excellent body of people to use in studies, as they tend to stay in the same jobs for long periods of time and thus are still there to check up on over a number of years. They aren’t that likely to break out and change their habits and lifestyles either, which makes them uniquely useful to researchers requiring consistency in their subjects.

The Whitehall studies have made the most of this, examining many different factors pertaining to health via the civil servants faithfully beavering away in Whitehall.

What do we want to know about these people?

The Whitehall original study looked at the impact social class might have on health amongst male workers employed at varying grades in the civil service. It focused on heart health, and found that men in the lower grade jobs were far more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases than those in higher grade jobs.

The Whitehall II study commenced in 1985 and involved over 10,000 men and women who were employed in the London offices of the British Civil Service. Its aim was to look more closely at the social distribution of many diseases, as everything from back pain to certain cancers appeared to affect those on the lower rungs of the social ladder more than those perched higher. These civil servants have been followed throughout the intervening years, with results from the data collected being evaluated and released on an on-going basis.

Why should women take notice of this particular section of the study?

In this segment of the study, researchers looked at the association between long working hours and the onset of depressive and anxiety symptoms in employees aged between 44 and 66 years old. Their working hours, anxiety and depressive symptoms were measured at the start of the study, the then monitored over a 5-year period.

The findings were that those working more than 55 hours per week were more at risk of depression and anxiety than those working 35-40 hours per week. However, this was shown to be significant only for the women in the study, not the men. So, girls, take heed of the lesson provided by the civil servants of Whitehall: working long hours can seriously damage your mental health! Have a cup of a good herbal remedy for stress relief, and take time to rethink your schedule before your mind melts into your mouse mat.

[1] Virtanen M et al. Psychological Medicine 2011; 41 (12): 2485-2494