Skip to main content
Log in

Long Working Hours and Well-being: What We Know, What We Do Not Know, and What We Need to Know

Journal of Business and Psychology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Cite this article

Abstract

Despite a widespread belief in both the academic and public policy literatures that working long hours is deleterious to health and well-being, our critical review of this large and complex literature fails to support a robust direct causal effect of work hours on either physical or mental well-being outcomes. Large-scale epidemiological studies, many of which are prospective and include objective health outcome measures, support a statistically significant association between long work hours and coronary heart disease and depression, but the effect sizes are very small. Moreover, there is an absence of true longitudinal studies that assess the consistency of working long hours over time and its relationship to well-being. Our review suggests that the effects of working long hours are nuanced in that they may vary considerably for different working populations based on gender, age, working conditions, and other factors. Primary and meta-analytic studies suggest that such moderator effects are plausible, yet rigorous testing of these remains to be done. We conclude with suggestions for specific moderator effects that seem worth investigating in future research.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Notes

  1. Actually, this somewhat overestimates the impact because the RR figure should be applied to the incident rate of the normal work hours group, which was unavailable, rather than that of the entire sample.

References

  • Ala-Mursala, L., Vahtera, J., Kouvonen, A., Vaananen, A., Linna, A., Pentti, J., & Kivimaki, M. (2006). Long hours in paid and domestic work and subsequent sickness absence: does control over daily working hours matter? Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 63, 608–616.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Amagasa, T., & Nakayama, T. (2012). Relationship between long working hours and depression in two working populations: a structural equation approach. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 54, 868–874.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Baltes, B. B., Briggs, T. E., Huff, J. W., Wright, J. A., & Neuman, G. A. (1999). Felxible and compressed workweek schedules: a meta-analysis of their effects on work-related criteria. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 496–513.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bambra, C., & Eikemo, T. A. (2009). Welfare state regimes, unemployment, and health: a comparative study of the relationship between unemployment and self-reported health in 23 European countries. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 63, 92–98.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bannai, A., & Tamakoshi, A. (2014). RThe association between long working hours and health: a systematic review of epidemiological evidence. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health, 40, 5–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett, R. C. (2006). Relationship of the number and distribution of work hours to health and quality-of-life (QOL) outcomes. In P. L. Perrewe’ & D. C. Ganster (Eds.), Research in occupational stress and well-being, volume 5: employee health, coping, and methodologies (pp. 99–138). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1252–1265.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bell, L. A., & Freeman, R. B. (2001). The incentive for working hard: explaining hours worked differences in the US and Germany. Labour Economics, 8(2), 181–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • BBC. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34677949. Accessed 26 August 2016.

  • Bliese, P. D., & Halverson, R. R. (1996). Individual and nomothetic models of job stress: an examination of work hours, cohesion, and well-being. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 26, 1171–1189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bliese, P. M., Jex, S. M., & Halverson, R. R. (2002). Integrating multilevel analyses and occupational stress theory. In P. Perrewe & D. Ganster (Eds.), Research in occupational stress and well-being, Vol. 2: historical and current perspectives on stress and health (pp. 217–259). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Bonett, D. G. (2007). Transforming odds ratios into correlations for meta-analytic research. American Psychologist, 62, 254–255.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bosma, H., Marmot, M., Hemingway, H., Nicholson, A. C., Brunner, E., & Stansfeld, S. A. 1997. Low job control and risk of coronary heart disease in Whitehall II (prospective cohort) study. British Medical Journal, 314, 558–565. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/diabetes.htm. Accessed 25 August 2016.

  • Caruso, C. C., Bushnell, T., Eggerth, D., Heitmann, A., Kojola, B., Newman, K., Rosa, R., Sauter, S., & Vila, B. (2006). Long working hours, safety, and health: toward a national research agenda. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 49, 930–942.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cheng, Y., Du, C.-L., Hwang, J.-J., Chen, I.-S., Chen, M.-F., & Su, T.-C. (2014). Working hours, sleep duration and the risk of acute coronary heart disease: a case-control study of middle-aged men in Taiwan. International Journal of Cardiology, 171, 419–422.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Christian, M. S., & Ellis, A. P. (2011). Examining the effects of sleep deprivation on workplace deviance: a self-regulatory perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 54(5), 913–934.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cleveland, J. N., Fisher, G. G., & Sawyer, K. (2015). Work-family equality: importance of a level playing field at home. In M. J. Mills (Ed.), Gender and the work/family experience: an intersection of two domains (pp. 179–201). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Digby, P. G. N. (1983). Approximating the tetrachoric correlation coefficient. Biometrics, 39, 753–757.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Driesen, K., Jansen, N. W. H., Kant, I., Mohren, D. C. L., & van Amelsvoort, L. G. P. M. (2010). Depressed mood in the working population: associations with work schedules and working hours. Chronobiology International, 27, 1062–1079.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Eaton, W. W., Martins, S. S., Nestadt, G., Bienvenu, O. J., Clarke, D., et al. (2008). The burden of mental disorders. Epidemiologic Reviews, 30, 1–14.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Fritz, C., & Sonnentag, S. (2006). Recovery, well-being, and performance-related outcomes: the role of workload and vacation experiences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(4), 936–945.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ganster, D. C. (2005). Executive job demands: suggestions from a stress and decision making perspective. Academy of Management Review, 30, 492–502.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ganster, D. C., & Rosen, C. R. (2013). Work stress and employee health: a multidisciplinary review. Journal of Management, 39, 1085–1122.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gendolla, G. H., & Richter, M. (2005). Ego involvement and effort: cardiovascular, electrodermal, and performance effects. Psychophysiology, 42(5), 595–603.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Glass, J., & Fujimoto, T. (1994). Housework, paid work, and depression among husbands and wives. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 35, 179–191.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Goh, J., Pfeffer, J., & Zenios, S. A. (2016). The relationship between workplace stressors and mortality and health costs in the United States. Management Science, 62, 608–628.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goldberg, L. S., & Grandey, A. A. (2007). Display rules versus display autonomy: emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and task performance in a call center simulation. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(3), 301–318.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10(1), 76–88.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hochschild, A., & Machung, A. (2012). The second shift: working families and the revolution at home. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hunt, K., & Annandale, E. (1993). Just the job? Is the relationship between health and domestic and paid work gender-specific? Sociology of Health and Illness, 15, 632–664.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, R. E., Rosen, C. C., & Djurdjevic, E. (2011). Assessing the impact of common method variance on higher-order multidimensional constructs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 744–761.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kang, M.-Y., Park, H., Seo, J.-C., Lim, D., Lim, Y.-H., Lim, S., Cho, S.-H., & Hong, Y.-C. (2012). Long working hours and cardiovascular disease. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 54, 532–537.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kivimaki, M., Jokela, M., Nyberg, S. T., Singh-Manoux, A., Fransson, E., Alfredsson, L., Bjomer, J., Borritz, M., Burr, H., Casini, A., Clays, E., De Bacquer, D., Dragano, N., Erbel, R., Geuskens, G. A., Hamer, M., Hooftman, W. E., Houtman, I. L., Jockel, K.-H., Kittel, F., Knutsson, A., Koskenvuo, M., Lunau, T., Madsen, I. E. H., Nielsen, M. L., Nordin, M., Oksanen, T., Pejtersen, J. H., Pentti, J., Rugulies, R., Salo, P., Shipley, M. J., Siegrist, J., Steptoe, A., Suominen, S. B., Theorell, T., Vahtera, J., Westerholm, P. J. M., Westerlund, H., O’Reilly, D., Kumari, M., Batty, G. D., Ferrie, J. E., & Virtanen, M. (2015a). 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. The Lancet, 140-6736(15), 60295–60291 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60295-1.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kivimaki, M., Virtanen, M., Kawachi, I., Nyberg, S. T., Alfredsson, L., Batty, G. D., Bjorner, J. B., Borritz, M., Brunner, E. J., Burr, H., Dragano, N., Ferrie, J. E., Fransson, E. I., Hamer, M., Heikkila, K., Knutsson, A., Koskenvuo, M., Madsen, I. E., Nielsen, M. L., Nordin, M., Oksanen, T., Pejtersen, J. H., Pentti, J., Rugulies, R., Salo, P., Siegrist, J., Steptoe, A., Suominen, S., Theorell, T., Vahtera, J., Westerholm, P. J. M., Westerlund, H., Singh-Manoux, A., & Jokela, M. (2015b). Long working hours, socioeconomic status, and the risk of incident type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of published and unpublished data from 222 120 individuals. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinology, 3, 27–34.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Kleiner, S., Schunck, R., & Schomann, K. (2015). Different contexts, different effects? Work time and mental health in the United States and Germany. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 56, 98–113.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kossek, E. E., Ruderman, M. N., Braddy, P. W., & Hannum, K. M. (2012). Work–nonwork boundary management profiles: a person-centered approach. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 81(1), 112–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kluger, A. N., & Tikochinsky, J. (2001). The error of accepting the “theoretical” null hypothesis: the rise, fall, and resurrection of commonsense hypotheses in psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 127(3), 408–423.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lanaj, K., Johnson, R. E., & Barnes, C. M. (2014). Beginning the workday yet already depleted? Consequences of late-night smartphone use and sleep. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 124(1), 11–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Landrigan, C. P., Fahrenkopf, A. M., Lewin, D., Sharek, P. J., Barger, L. K., Eisner, M., & Sectish, T. C. (2008). Effects of the accreditation council for graduate medical education duty hour limits on sleep, work hours, and safety. Pediatrics, 122(2), 250–258.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lockley, S. W., Cronin, J. W., Evans, E. E., Cade, B. E., Lee, C. J., Landrigan, C. P., Rothschild, J. M., Katz, J. T., Lilly, C. M., Stone, P. H., Aeschbach, D., & Czeisler, C. A. (2004). Effect of reducing interns’ weekly work hours on sleep and attentional failures. The New England Journal of Medicine, 351, 1829–1837.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Moller, A. C., Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2006). Choice and ego-depletion: the moderating role of autonomy. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(8), 1024–1036.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Muraven, M., Gagné, M., & Rosman, H. (2008). Helpful self-control: autonomy support, vitality, and depletion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(3), 573–585.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Nagashima, S., Suwazono, Y., Okubo, Y., Uetani, M., Kobayashi, E., Kido, T., & Nogawa, K. (2007). Working hours and mental and physical fatigue in Japanese workers. Occupational Medicine, 57, 449–452.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ng, T. W. H., & Feldman, D. C. (2008). Long work hours: a social identity perspective on meta-analysis data. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29, 853–880.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prem, R., Kubicek, B., Diestel, S., & Korunka, C. (2016). Regulatory job stressors and their within-person relationships with ego depletion: the roles of state anxiety, self-control effort, and job autonomy. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 92, 22–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, J. P., Chenu, A., & Alvarez, A. S. (2002). Measuring the complexity of hours at work: the weekly work grid. Monthly Labor Review, 125, 44–54.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosen, C. C., Koopman, J., Gabriel, A., & Johnson, R. E. (2016). Who strikes back? A daily investigation of when and why incivility begets incivility. Journal of Applied Psychology.

  • Sanz-Vergel, A. I., Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., & Moreno-Jiménez, B. (2011). Daily detachment from work and home: the moderating effect of role salience. Human Relations, 64, 775–799.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schmitt, N., Colligan, M. J., & Fitzgerald, M. (1980). Unexplained physical symptoms in eight organizations: individual and organizational analyses. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 53, 305–317.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shields, M. (1999). Long working hours and health. Health Reports, 11, 33–48.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Solovieva, S., Lallluka, T., Virtanen, M., & Viikar-Juntura, E. (2013). Psychosocial factors at work, long work hours, and obesity: a systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health, 39, 241–258.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sonnentag, S. (2010). Recovery from fatigue: the role of psychological detachment. In P. L. Ackerman (Ed.), Cognitive fatigue: the current status and future for research and application (pp. 253–272). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/12343-012.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2015). Recovery from job stress: the stressor-detachment model as an integrative framework. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(S1), S72–S103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sparks, K., Cooper, C., Fried, Y., & Shirom, A. (1997). The effects of work hours on health: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 70, 391–408.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spector, P. E., Cooper, C. L., Poelmans, S., Allen, T. D., O’Driscoll, M., Sanchez, J. I., Siu, O. L., Dewew, P., Hart, P., Lu, L., De Moraes, L. F. R., Ostrognay, G. M., Sparks, K., Wog, P., & Yu, S. (2004). A cross-national comparative study of work-family stressors, working hours, and well-being: China and Latin America versus the Anglo world. Personnel Psychology, 57, 119–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spector, P. E., Dwyer, D. J., & Jex, S. M. (1988). Relation of job stressors to affective, health, and performance outcomes: a comparison of multiple data sources. Journal of Applied Psychology, 73, 11–19.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Steptoe, A., Wardle, J., Lipsey, Z., Mills, R., Oliver, G., Jarvis, M., & Kirschbaum, C. (1998). A longitudinal study of work load and variations in psychological well-being, cortisol, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 20(2), 84–91.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sturman, M. C., & Walsh, K. (2014). Strengthening the employment relationship: the effects of work-hours fit on key employee attitudes. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35, 762–784.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tarumi, K., Hagihara, A., & Morimoto, K. (2003). A prospective observation of health defects associated with working hours. Industrial Health, 41, 101–108.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Tarumi, K., Hagihara, A., & Morimoto, K. (2004). Moderating effects of psychological job strain on the relationship between working hours and health: an examination of white-collar workers employed by a Japanese manufacturing company. Journal of Occupational Health, 46, 345–351.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • ten Brummelhuis, L.L., Rothbard, N.P., & Uhrich, B. (2016) Beyond nine to five: Is working to excess bad for health? Academy of Management Discoveries.

  • Tierney, D., Romito, P., & Messing, K. (1990). She ate not the bread of idleness: exhaustion is related to domestic and salaried working conditions among 539 Québec hospital workers. Women & Health, 16(1), 21–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tucker, P., & Rutherford, C. (2005). Moderators of the relationship between long work hours and health. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 465–476.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Valcour, M. (2007). Work-based resources as moderators of the relationship between work hours and satisfaction with work-family balance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1512–1523.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Virtanen, M., Ferrie, J. E., Singh-Manoux, A., Shipley, M. J., Stansfeld, S. S., Marmot, M. G., Ahola, K., Vahtera, J., & Kivimaki, M. (2011). Psychological Medicine, 41, 2485–2494.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Virtanen, M., Heikkela, K., Jokela, M., Ferrie, J. E., Batty, G. D., Vahtera, J., & Kivimaki, M. (2012a). Long working hours and coronary heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology, 176, 586–596.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Virtanen, M., Stansfeld, S. A., Fuhrer, R., Ferrie, J. E., & Kivimaki, M. (2012b). Overtime work as a predictor of major depressive episode: a 5-year follow-up of the Whitehall II study. PloS One, 7(1), e30719.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Wayne, J. H., Casper, W. J., Matthews, R. A., & Allen, T. D. (2013). Family-supportive organization perceptions and organizational commitment: the mediating role of work–family conflict and enrichment and partner attitudes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(4), 606–622.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Webb, T. L., & Sheeran, P. (2003). Can implementation intentions help to overcome ego-depletion? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39(3), 279–286.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • West, C. P., Tan, A. D., Habermann, T. M., Sloan, J. A., & Shanafelt, T. D. (2009). Association of resident fatigue and distress with perceived medical errors. JAMA, 302(12), 1294–1300.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • World Health Organization. (1994). Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI): Researcher’s Manual. American Psychiatric Publications Inc.

  • Wright, R. A., Junious, T. R., Neal, C., Avello, A., Graham, C., Herrmann, L., & Walton, N. (2007). Mental fatigue influence on effort-related cardiovascular response: difficulty effects and extension across cognitive performance domains. Motivation and Emotion, 31(3), 219–231.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Paul Spector, Pamela Perrewé, and Donald Truxillo for their insightful comments and suggestions.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher C. Rosen.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ganster, D.C., Rosen, C.C. & Fisher, G.G. Long Working Hours and Well-being: What We Know, What We Do Not Know, and What We Need to Know. J Bus Psychol 33, 25–39 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-016-9478-1

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-016-9478-1

Keywords

Navigation