Workaholics Sacrifice Physical and Mental Well-being, Study Shows

A new study, “Workaholism and Well-Being,” found a preliminary link between workaholics and reduced physical and mental well-being. In fact, the more money a person makes, the more likely they are to increase time spent at work – creating an unhealthy cycle.

Sarah Asebedo, a Kansas State University doctoral student in the College of Human Ecology’s personal financial planning and conflict resolution program conducted the study with colleagues using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979.

“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,” said Asebedo. “Also, we found workaholism was associated with reduced mental well-being as measured by a self-reported depression score.”

To understand why people work overtime even when they know it is not good for their well-being, the researchers used Gary S. Becker’s Theory of the Allocation of Time, a mathematical analysis for choice measuring the cost of time.

“This theory suggests the more money you make, the more likely you are to work more,” Asebedo said. “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.”

According to Asebedo, Becker’s theory suggests not only can working more make a person wealthier, but it also creates less leisure time to spend money. As income increases a person may be more likely to work more and create an unhealthy habit.

Data for the study was taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort, a nationally representative sample of 12,686 young men and women who were interviewed on an annual basis from 1979 through 1994 and are currently interviewed on a biennial basis.