Mental Health Awareness Month: Balancing Work and Life

Work allows you to provide for yourself and your family while also serving a purpose in the community, but when it takes over your life it can negatively affect your health.

How health suffers when work takes over your life:

  • Mental and physical impacts of workplace burnout and stress are estimated to cost as much as $190 billion per year ($6,025 per second) in healthcare spending in the U.S.[1]
  • Poor work-life balance increases your risk for health conditions like sleeping problems, digestive disorders, and mental health problems. This is especially true for people who work longer shifts or on nights and weekends.[2]
  • Working overtime increases the likelihood of having symptoms of depression, especially in men.[3]

For people with chronic conditions, balancing the demands of work while also caring for your health or another’s can be difficult, but laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act are designed to protect the jobs of people with disabilities or medical concerns. While research has yet to confirm whether paid employment is more positive or negative to a caregiver’s wellbeing, one study did find that among caregivers who work, caregiving responsibilities caused women to miss work twice as often as men.[4]

The good news is: many companies are taking note by supporting their employees who might be struggling, and it’s shown to have positive results.

In studies of people who had been diagnosed with cancer, those who believed that their employers would be accommodating to their treatment were more likely to return to work.[5] A survey of people with diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis found that self-acceptance, understanding and support from coworkers and management, adaptations to workflow and work environment, and adequate benefits were among some of the most important factors when it came to their ability to keep working.[6]

[1] Blanding, M. (2015, January 26). National Health Costs Could Decrease if Managers Reduce Work Stress. Retrieved from https://hbswk.hbs. edu/item/national-health-costs-could-decrease-if-managers-reduce-work-stress

[2] Wirtz, A. & Nachreiner, F. (2010). The effects of extended working hours on health and social well-being – a comparative analysis of four independent samples. Chronobiology International 27(5): 1124-1134

[3] Drieson, K. et al. (2010). Depressed mood in the working population: Associations with work schedules and working hours. Chronobiology International 27(5): 1062-1079

[4] Robison, J., Fortinsky, R., Kleppinger, A., Shugrue, N., & Porter, M. (2009) A broader view of family caregiving: effects of caregiving and caregiver conditions on depressive symptoms, health, work, and social isolation. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 64(6):788-798

[5] Spelten ER, Sprangers MAJHV. Factors reported to influence the return to work of cancer survivors: a literature review. Psychooncology 2002;11:124–31

[6] Detaille, S. I., Haafkens, J. A., & Van Dijk, F. J. (2003). What employees with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus and hearing loss need to cope at work. Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health, 29(2), 134-142