Long working hours and depressive symptoms: moderating effects of gender, socioeconomic status, and job resources

  • Kanami TsunoEmail author
  • Ichiro Kawachi
  • Akiomi Inoue
  • Saki Nakai
  • Takumi Tanigaki
  • Hikaru Nagatomi
  • Norito Kawakami
  • JSTRESS Group
Original Article



Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have found inconsistent associations between working hours and depressive symptoms. The purpose of this study was to investigate the possible moderators of this association, using data from a large-scale cross-sectional survey.


A total of 16,136 Japanese employees (men 83.5%; women 16.5%) responded to a self-administered questionnaire inquiring about overtime working hours during the previous month and depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale), as well as moderating factors including gender, age, marital status, socioeconomic status, commuting time, sleeping hours per day, job control and worksite social support (Job Content Questionnaire), neuroticism (Eysenck’s Personality Questionnaire Revised), and social desirability (Social Desirability Scale) (response rate, 85%). We conducted sequential regression analyses to investigate the main effects and interaction effects of all moderating variables.


The association between overtime working hours and depressive symptoms was significantly moderated by gender (interaction effect: β = 0.03), age (β = − 0.02), manager (β = 0.03), sleeping hours (β = − 0.02), job control (β = − 0.03), and neuroticism (β = 0.02). Among workers engaged in 80 + hours of overtime, higher depressive symptoms were reported by women, younger employees, non-managers, employees with low job control, low worksite social support, and high neuroticism. A significant main effect of long overtime working hours on depressive symptoms was also observed even after controlling for all independent variables (β = 0.02).


Long overtime working hours is associated with depressive symptoms. We also found significant heterogeneity in the association according to employee characteristics, which may explain the inconsistent findings in previous literature.


Depression Japan Overwork Mental Health Workplace 



The following are members of JSTRESS (the Japan Work Stress and Health Cohort Study) group: Takashi Haratani (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Japan), Fumio Kobayashi (Aichi Medical University, Japan), Masao Ishizaki (Kanazawa Medical University, Japan), Takeshi Hayashi (Hitachi Health Care Center, Japan), Osamu Fujita (Kariya Toyota General Hospital, Japan), Yoshiharu Aizawa (Kitasato University, Japan), Shogo Miyazaki (Kanda Christian Clinic, Japan), Hisanori Hiro (University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan),Takeshi Masumoto (Kimitsu Health Service Center, Japan), Shuji Hashimoto (Fujita Health University School of Medicine, Japan), and Shunichi Araki (Saitama Occupational Health Promotion Center, Japan).


This study was supported by a special research grant for the prevention of work-related diseases in 1995–1999 from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


  1. Artazcoz L, Gutiérrez VA (2012) Gender differences in the relationship between long working hours and health status in Catalonia. Archivos de Prevencion de Riesgos Laborales 15:129–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bakker AB, Demerouti E (2007) The job demands-resources model: state of the art. J Manag Psychol 22:309–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bakker AB, Hakanen JJ, Demerouti E, Xanthopoulou D (2007) Job resources boost work engagement, particularly when job demands are high. J Educ Psychol 99:274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bannai A, Tamakoshi A (2014) The association between long working hours and health: a systematic review of epidemiological evidence. Scand J Work Environ Health 40:5–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cole DA (1988) Hopelessness, social desirability, depression, and parasuicide in two college student samples. J Consult Clin Psychol 56:131–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crowne DP, Marlowe D (1960) A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. J Consult Psychol 24:349–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eysenck SB, Eysenck HJ, Barrett P (1985) A revised version of the psychoticism scale. Person Individ Difl 6:21–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fujino Y, Horie S, Hoshuyama T et al (2006) A systematic review of working hours and mental health burden. Sangyo Eiseigaku Zasshi 48:87–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Glymour MM, Avendano M, Kawachi I (2014) Socioeconomic status and health. In: Berkman LF, Kawachi I, Glymour MM (eds) Social epidemiology, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 17–63Google Scholar
  10. Hino A, Inoue A, Kawakami N et al (2015) Buffering effects of job resources on the association of overtime work hours with psychological distress in Japanese white-collar workers. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 88:631–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hosokawa T, Ohyama M (1993) Reliability and validity of a Japanese version of the short-form Eysenck Personality Questionnaire—revised. Psychol Rep 72:823–832CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Johnson JV, Hall EM (1988) Job strain, work place social support, and cardiovascular disease: a cross-sectional study of a random sample of the Swedish working population. Am J Public Health 78:1336–1342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jylhä P, Isometsä E (2006) The relationship of neuroticism and extraversion to symptoms of anxiety and depression in the general population. Depress Anxiety 23:281–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kahn-Greene ET, Killgore DB, Kamimori GH et al (2007) The effects of sleep deprivation on symptoms of psychopathology in healthy adults. Sleep Med 8:215–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Karasek RA (1979) Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: implications for job redesign. Admin Sci Q 24:285–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Karasek RA (1985) Job Content Questionnaire and user’s guide. University of Massachusetts at Lowell, LowellGoogle Scholar
  17. Kato R, Haruyama Y, Endo M et al (2014) Heavy overtime work and depressive disorder among male workers. Occup Med 64:622–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kawakami N, Kobayashi F, Araki S et al (1995) Assessment of job stress dimensions based on the job demands-control model of employees of telecommunication and electric power companies in Japan: reliability and validity of the Japanese version of the Job Content Questionnaire. Int J Behav Med 2:358–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kawakami N, Haratani T, Kobayashi F et al (2004) Occupational class and exposure to job stressors among employed men and women in Japan. J Epidemiol 14:204–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kitamura T, Suzuki T (1986) Nihongo-ban Social Desirability Scale ni tsuite [Japanese version of Social Desirability Scale]. Soc Psychiatry 9:173–180Google Scholar
  21. Kivimäki M, Jokela M, Nyberg ST et al (2015) Long working hours and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis of published and unpublished data for 603 838 individuals. Lancet 386:1739–1746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kleppa E, Sanne B, Tell GS (2008) Working overtime is associated with anxiety and depression: the Hordaland Health Study. J Occup Environ Med 50:658–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kuroda S (2010) Do Japanese Work Shorter Hours than before? Measuring trends in market work and leisure using 1976–2006 Japanese time-use survey. J Jpn Int Econ 24:481–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Madsen IE, Nyberg ST, Hanson LM et al (2017) Job strain as a risk factor for clinical depression: systematic review and meta-analysis with additional individual participant data. Psychol Med 47:1342–1356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Milner A, Smith P, LaMontagne AD (2015) Working hours and mental health in Australia: evidence from an Australian population-based cohort, 2001–2012. Occup Environ Med 72:573–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (2016) The survey on time use and leisure activities 2016. Accessed 22 Dec 2018
  27. Nagashima S, Suwazono Y, Okubo Y et al (2007) Working hours and mental and physical fatigue in Japanese workers. Occup Med 57:449–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nakata A (2011) Work hours, sleep sufficiency, and prevalence of depression among full-time employees: a community-based cross-sectional study [CME]. J Clin Psychiatry 72:605–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nijp HH, Beckers DG, Geurts SA et al (2012) Systematic review on the association between employee worktime control and work-non-work balance, health and well-being, and job-related outcomes. Scand J Work Environ Health 38:299–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. O’Reilly D, Rosato M (2013) Worked to death? A census-based longitudinal study of the relationship between the numbers of hours spent working and mortality risk. Int J Epidemiol 42:1820–1830CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Palmer KT, Bonzini M, Harris EC et al (2013) Work activities and risk of prematurity, low birth weight and pre-eclampsia: an updated review with meta-analysis. Occup Environ Med 70:213–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Radloff LS (1977) The CES-D scale: a self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Appl Psychol Meas 1:385–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rawshani A, Svensson AM, Zethelius B et al (2016) Association between socioeconomic status and mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in patients with type 2 diabetes. JAMA Intern Med 176:1146–1154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shields M (1999) Long working hours and health [1994–1997 data]. Health Rep 11:33–48Google Scholar
  35. Shima S, Shikano T, Kitamura T et al (1985) Atarashii yokuutsusei jiko hyouka shakudo ni tsuite [New self-rating scale for depression]. Clin Psychiatry 27:717–723Google Scholar
  36. Shimazu A, Schaufeli WB (2009) Is workaholism good or bad for employee well-being? The distinctiveness of workaholism and work engagement among Japanese employees. Ind Health 47:495–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shimazu A, Kubota K, Bakker A et al (2013) Work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict among Japanese dual-earner couples with preschool children: a spillover-crossover perspective. J Occup Health 55:234–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sparks K, Cooper C, Fried Y et al (1997) The effects of hours of work on health: a meta-analytic review. J Occup Organ Psychol 70:391–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Spurgeon A, Harrington JM, Cooper CL (1997) Health and safety problems associated with long working hours: a review of the current position. Occup Environ Med 54:367–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Van der Hulst M (2003) Long workhours and health. Scand J Work Environ Health 29:171–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Virtanen M, Jokela M, Madsen IE et al (2018) Long working hours and depressive symptoms: systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished individual participant data. Scand J Work Environ Health 44:239–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Watanabe K, Imamura K, Kawakami N (2016) Working hours and the onset of depressive disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Occup Environ Med 73:877–884Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Behavioral SciencesHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Hygiene, School of MedicineWakayama Medical UniversityWakayamaJapan
  3. 3.Department of Public HealthKitasato University School of MedicineSagamiharaJapan
  4. 4.Department of Mental Health, Graduate School of MedicineThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations