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Working Overtime May Cost You Your Health

Update Date: Aug 23, 2013 07:59 AM EDT

All work no play makes Jack an ill boy.  New research suggests that people who work overtime may be risking their health.

A new study, which included data from more than 12,600 young men and women living in the United States, found that people who work more than 50 hours a week suffered poorer physical and mental health than those who worked fewer hours.

"We looked at the association between workaholism and physical and mental well-being," researcher Sarah Asebedo said in a news release. "We found workaholics -- defined by those working more than 50 hours per week -- were more likely to have reduced physical well-being, measured by skipped meals. Also, we found that workaholism was associated with reduced mental well-being as measured by a self-reported depression score."

While overworking has long been thought to reduce wellbeing, researchers said that there was little evidence supporting the link.

In the study, researchers used Gary S. Becker's Theory of the Allocation of Time, a mathematical analysis for choice measuring the cost of time, to understand why people work overtime even when they know it is not good for their health.

"It looks at the cost of time as if it were a market good," Asebedo said. "This theory suggests that the more money you make, the more likely you are to work more. If you are not engaged in work-related activities, then there is a cost to the alternative way in which time is spent. Even if you understand the negative consequences to workaholism, you may still be likely to continue working because the cost of not doing so becomes greater."

The theory suggests that working overtime makes a person wealthier, but it also creates less free time to spend money.  However, as income increases, a person may be more likely to work more and create an unhealthy habit.

In light of the latest findings, researchers warn workaholics to be aware of the effect excessive work has on their physical and mental wellbeing.  They say people should be prepared to do all they can to mitigate or counteract the effects during busy work periods.

"From a financial planning and counseling perspective, it's good to be aware of workaholism," said Asebedo, who is a full-time wealth manager for Accredited Investors in Edina.

"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. 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 they can accomplish that," she explained.

The findings will be published in the journal Financial Services Review

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