Working more than 39 hours a week 'damages physical and mental health', study finds

By Dana McCauley

Go home mate. Photo / 123RF
Go home mate. Photo / 123RF

Working more than 39 hours a week can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, a new study has found.

Australian National University researchers are calling for an end to the long hours worked by Australians, in the name of health and wellbeing.

They examined the working lives of 7890 adults and concluded that a culture of working overtime - with 40 per cent of Australians working more than 40 hours a week - was having a negative impact.

"Our findings showed that on average, the maximum number of hours that can be worked before mental health starts to suffer is 39 hours," the study's authors wrote.

"Long work hours erode a person's mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly ... Australian businesses need to adhere to a healthy work hour limit for the mental health of workers."

And, they said, the ideal amount of work per week was different for men and women, who typically spent more time on domestic duties.

Women were best off working just 34 hours a week "to take into account the amount of caring work women do at home", they said.

The researchers noted that the International Labour Organisation's standard work week limit of 48 hours, set 80 years ago, was based on a labour market in which most paid jobs were worked by men - many of them with wives at home taking care of the housework.

"Almost half of the workforce is [now] made up of women and two-fifths of employed adults hold down a job while caring for children or elderly parents," they said.

"Women are still working in a labour market that systematically disadvantages them in terms of pay, conditions and rewards ... They usually spend more time caregiving and have very different experiences on the job, because they have lower pay - earning 17 per cent or $277.70 less per week on average, full time - along with less paid leave entitlement."

On that note, ladies, we suggest you take an early mark.

- news.com.au

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