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A new study of more than 3,000 people in the U.S. has found people who are most likely to work more than 80 hours a week are more likely to have mental health problems.
The study, published Monday in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, also found workers who were the least mentally healthy were also more likely than others to have depression and anxiety.
The findings may help explain why work has become a major source of stress for Americans.
“Our results indicate that people who have the highest stress level are those who are also the most likely individuals to have elevated stress levels, even after controlling for factors such as occupation, age, gender and family structure,” lead author Mark Bussmann, a research associate in the department of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told ABC News.
“The association between stress and mental health is particularly strong among those who work the longest.”
The researchers looked at data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Survey (HPFS), a nationally representative survey of health professionals conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the nonprofit that conducted the survey.
The survey is designed to track the health of U.P. workers in the field.
It is conducted annually and is designed for workers in specific occupations.
The HPFS also collects data on job responsibilities and health outcomes.
Bussmann and colleagues looked at the associations between stress levels and mental illness in 1,700 people.
Among those, they identified those who were at or above the 95th percentile for the prevalence of mental illness and those who had a stress level of more that 60.
Researchers found people in occupations with high stress levels had more than twice the risk of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.
For those with low stress levels the risk was even higher, the researchers found.
For workers in occupations that are more stressful, the risk rose to over four times.
“The relationship between stress level and mental disorders is so strong, even controlling for age and education, that we can see that these high stress workers are also at higher risk for mental health disorders, including depression and the stress related stress response,” Bussman said.
The findings also indicated that people with more mental illnesses tended to work in occupations more stressful.
Among workers with mental health concerns, those with higher stress levels were nearly three times more likely as those with lower stress levels to be unemployed.
Bruising stress, low sleep and anxiety were also linked to higher mental health risks among workers.
“We found that workers who have high stress, particularly those who have depression, are also more vulnerable to having a stressful job,” Buckings said.
“This suggests that stress may be a factor in the development of mental disorders.”
The study also showed that workers with the highest levels of mental illnesses were also twice as likely to report having experienced symptoms of a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, at some point during the study.