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Feeling depressed? Maybe you're working too much

Some long days at work can make you question whether anyone works a regular 8-hour shift any more. And as extended work hours become a reality for many of us, research is starting to get a handle on the health trade-offs we're making.

According to a new study, working 11 or more hours a day may actually put you at a higher risk for clinical depression.

In a look at the records of more than 2,000 civil servants in the United Kingdom over an average period of six years, researchers found that "working 11 or more hours a day was associated with a 2.3- to 2.5-fold increased risk of having a major depressive episode compared with those who worked a standard seven- to eight-hour day," reports the Los Angeles Times.

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"Although occasionally working overtime may have benefits for the individual and society," said lead author Marianna Virtanen in a news release, "it is important to recognize that working excessive hours is also associated with an increased risk of major depression."

The correlation held true after results were adjusted for social and demographic factors, smoking, alcohol use and job strain, according to the researchers. So, even if you don't mind burning the midnight oil for the boss, you're still more likely to be depressed.

While the researchers can't yet explain what's behind the link, they suggest that conflicts between work and family, problems winding down after the work day and increased amounts of cortisol may be the specific culprits, reports the LA Times.

Too much cortisol – a stress hormone – has been shown to cause other health problems such as lower immunity and high blood pressure, reports the paper.

While these researchers were considering the role of overwork in depression, others are contemplating the role of grief.

In the ongoing debates around updates to the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or D.S.M., it appears that grieving a loved one might now count as depression. It currently excludes bereavement, according to the New York Times, and critics say it should continue to otherwise, "there is the potential for considerable false-positive diagnosis and unnecessary treatment of grief-stricken persons."

Do you think there is a risk in expanding the definition of clinical depression to include mourning a death and work-related stress?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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