- Publish Date
- Saturday, 29 June 2019, 4:38PM
You may think you're overworked and underpaid and a recent study might just prove that you are right.
According to new research, working just one day a week, or eight hours total gives you the most mental and physical health benefits of full-time employment. Work hours greater than that are allegedly an overkill for our wellbeing, the study suggests.
When people move from unemployment into paid work of eight hours or less a week, the study revealed that the risk of mental health drops by a surprising 30 per cent.
Sociologists at Cambridge and Salford universities found that there was no substantial evidence that working any more than eight hours would boost an individual's wellbeing both mentally and physically.
The recommended work dosage was determined by researchers through a survey of over 70,000 UK residents between 2009 and 2018. The survey was created to examine how changes in working hours were linked to mental health and life satisfaction.
Characteristics were controlled in the survey, including age, children, longstanding illness and household income. Conclusively research suggested that anything more than eight hours a day, or one day a week, makes little difference to the wellbeing benefits of paid work.
"We have effective dosage guides for everything from Vitamin C to hours of sleep in order to help us feel better, but this is the first time the question has been asked of paid work," said Dr Brendan Burchell, the co-author of the study.
"We know unemployment is often detrimental to people's wellbeing, negatively affecting identity, status, time use, and sense of collective purpose."
"We now have some idea of just how much paid work is needed to get the psychosocial benefits of employment – and it's not that much at all."
Supporting the unemployed in a future with limited work is the subject of much policy discussion, such as basic income.
"In the next few decades we could see artificial intelligence, big data and robotics replace much of the paid work currently done by humans," said Dr Daiga Kamerade, study first author.
"If there is not enough for everybody who wants to work fulltime, we will have to rethink current norms."
"This should include the redistribution of working hours, so everyone can get the mental health benefits of a job, even if that means we all work much shorter weeks."
"Our findings are an important step in thinking what the minimum amount of paid work people might need in a future with little work to go round."
Researchers have suggested a creative policy for a future with limited work. This could suggest "five-day weekends", working just two hours a day, or increasing annual holiday from weeks to months.
Dr Jed Boardman, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, commented on the study saying "we know that unemployment is bad for mental health and wellbeing and that being in work can be good for you".
"Being in jobs with low levels of control, high demands and complexity, job insecurity, and unfair pay can be as bad for a person's mental health as unemployment.
"This high-quality study reinforces what we already know, but suggests that the reduction of working hours can have benefits for people's mental health and wellbeing.
"If this is to be adopted in the policy then some caution is required to ensure that any reduction in hours is adopted equally across the workforce and that the psychosocial quality of the working environment is maintained."
The study findings are published in the journal Social Science And Medicine.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.