Everyone has that one friend or co-worker that’s always getting to work at nine in the morning and leaving at 12 at night — or working even longer. Being a workaholic isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but according to a new study, people who work long hours are less likely to report feeling a sense of well-being both physically and mentally.
Sarah Asebedo, a doctoral student of personal finance planning and conflict resolution at Kansas State University, wanted to explore the link between well-being and workaholism, especially in people who are aware that working long hours is detrimental to their health.
Researchers analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort, which interviewed a total of 12,686 young men and women annually from 1979 until 1994, and bianually after.
The researchers found workaholics, defined as working more than 50 hours a week, were less likely to report a sense of physical well-being, determined by how often they skipped meals, and mental well-being, measured through a depression scale based on self-reports.
Still, many of these people continued to work long hours knowing that they were suffering for it. Based on a theory known as Allocation of Time, which is a mathematical analysis for choice measuring the cost of time, the researchers looked at the “cost of time as if it were a market good.”
“This theory suggests that the more money you make, the more likely you are to work more,” Asebedo said in a statement. “If you are not engaged in work-related activities, then there is a cost to the alternative way in which time is spent.” The cost of not working becomes greater the longer someone isn’t working.
Although working more leaves less time for spending money, workaholism can be a very serious problem. Just last week, a 21-year-old intern with Bank of America was found dead after working three consecutive all-nighters. London bankers call the practice "the magic roundabout" because the taxi will take a person home, wait for him while he showers, and then drive him back to work. The Bank of America intern had apparently suffered a seizure. Workaholism has been associated with insomnia, anxiety, and heart disease, according to Forbes.
Unfortunately for many, breaking out of a habit can be difficult once they’ve become accustomed to it. Asebedo says it’s important to be aware of workaholism from a financial planning and counseling perspective. “It helps me understand what can be the cause of my clients’ stress. It’s just a reminder that you may want to dig a bit deeper into clients’ work lives," she said. "Sometimes you might find that they don’t like what they are doing and they want to make a change, yet financially, they don’t know how to accomplish that.”