According to current research, the longer someone works in a stressful job each week, the more likely they are to develop depression.
Working 90 or more hours per week resulted in three times the number of changes in depression symptom ratings as working 40 to 45 hours per week. Furthermore, when compared to those working fewer hours, a higher proportion of those working numerous hours had a score high enough to be labelled with moderate to severe depression, which requires therapy.
The researchers at the University of Michigan used advanced statistical techniques to recreate a randomised clinical trial while accounting for a variety of other variables of the doctors’ personal and professional lives.
With an average symptom increase of 1.8 points on a standard scale for those working 40 to 45 hours, and going up to 5.2 points for those working more than 90 hours, researchers discovered a “dose-response” relationship between the number of hours worked and depressive symptoms.
They come to the conclusion that, out of all the stressors that impact doctors, working a lot of hours is a significant factor in depression.
The team from Michigan Medicine, the academic medical institution of the University of Michigan, reports their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine after examining 11 years’ worth of data on more than 17,000 first-year medical residents. The recently graduated physicians were undergoing training at numerous hospitals throughout the country.
The information comes from the Michigan Neuroscience Institute and the Eisenberg Family Depression Center’s Intern Health Study. Every year, the project enlists fresh graduates from medical schools to participate in a year-long tracking of their depressed symptoms, work hours, sleep, and other factors as they finish the first year of residency, also known as the intern year.
The impact of high numbers of work hours & depression
This study comes at a time when major national organisations like the National Academy of Medicine and the Association of American Medical Colleges are debating how to address the high incidence of depression among physicians, physicians-in-training, and other healthcare professionals. Despite the fact that the interns in the survey indicated a wide range of previous-week work hours, the most common work hours levels were between 65 and 80 hours per week.
Resident work weeks are currently limited to 80 hours by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which establishes national standards for residency programmes. However, this maximum can be averaged across four weeks and there may be exceptions. Additionally, the ACGME places restrictions on how many days in succession and how long one shift can last for residents. Studies on the effects of these restrictions on resident well-being and patient safety hazards have produced conflicting results.
According to the authors, their findings show a definite need to significantly cut back on the typical amount of hours inhabitants work each week.
“This analysis suggests strongly that reducing the average number of work hours would make a difference in the degree to which interns’ depressive symptoms increase over time, and reduce the number who develop diagnosable depression,” says Amy Bohnert, PhD, the study’s senior author and a professor at the U-M Medical School. “The key thing is to have people work fewer hours; you can more effectively deal with the stresses or frustrations of your job when you have more time to recover.”