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Why Working Weekends Can Make You Miserable And Depressed

"Off time” is fast-diminishing as people work longer hours and more businesses operate around the clock, but it comes at a cost according to a new study.

Mike Blake works as a gas plant operator, and his job requires night shifts and weekend work.

"Weekends can be difficult because you tend to miss things," he told 10 daily.

Some weeks he clocks up 84 hours of work, but then he will have the following week off. The 40-year, who is single, believes his work has impacted past relationships and general demeanour.

"Definitely the lack of sleep affects you. And sleep patterns are definitely affected. By the end of a set of nights I'm definitely more edgy," he said.

Blake currently enjoys his work, and the freedom to have days off when others are working -- but there have been times when his work-life balance tipped the wrong way.

"It's a crazy schedule but for the most part I like it," Blake said.

His experience is consistent with a new study that found that men and women who work on weekends may be more likely to develop depression -- but with distinctly different journeys depending on your gender.

Researchers examined data from 11,215 men and 12,188 women working in the UK between 2010 and 2012.

Women working most weekends had more depression symptoms than women who only worked weekdays.

READ MORE: Quit Whining About Work-Life Balance Because The Future Is A 15-Hour Week

Men had more depression symptoms with weekend work when they also disliked their working conditions the study found.

“The results of our study show gender differences in the links between long and irregular hours and depressive symptoms,” Gillian Weston, a public health researcher at University College London said.

Almost half of the women worked less than 35 hours a week, while the majority of men worked longer hours. Only half of the women worked at least some weekends, compared with two-thirds of the men.

IMAGE: Getty Images

Compared to those working a “standard” 35 to 40 hour work week, men working less had more symptoms of depression.

Women, however, had a greater risk of depression only when they worked at least 55 hours a week according to findings published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

"We don’t know for sure what the reasons for this are, nonetheless, throughout the world it’s more usual for men to work longer hours in paid work than women; women still do a larger share of unpaid household chores and caring duties," Weston said.

She said women working weekends tend to be in lower paid service sector jobs so they might not be rewarded as much as men or enjoy the job.

"When women buck this trend or elongate their working week by working long or unsociable hours they may feel the additional time pressures or responsibilities for ‘having to do it all’."

READ MORE: A Four-Day Working Week Actually Better For Employers

The results suggest employers should realise that long hours and weekend shifts may compromise workers’ mental health.

Certainly a globalised economy and a 24/7 service culture is fueling the demands for people to work long hours and weekends, she said.

Weston said "we need some grown-up conversations about how this work is best organised"  so that workers get sufficient sleep and rest.

"So that women don’t have to shoulder the burden of the ‘second shift’ of unpaid domestic work, and so that those who work unsociable hours are sufficiently rewarded and valued."

A 2017 Australian study concluded that people who work more than 39 hours a week are putting their health at risk.

The research from The Australian National University (ANU) found the work limit for a healthy life should be set at and not exceed 39 hours a week. 

The research used data from about 8,000 Australian adults as part of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey.

It found that around two in three Australians in full-time employment worked more than 40 hours a week. Longer hours were a bigger problem for women who do more unpaid work at home.

"Australia needs to do more to change attitudes to work and to support men to take time to care without penalty or prejudice.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.