Mental Health: So How Much Work is too Much?

The following is a snippet from a New Scientist article on the growing push towards reducing hours, from working a five day week to a four day week while still receiving the five day wage. I’m specifically looking at the mental health aspect, which I thought was interesting (see below for the full article).

“Huong Dinh at the Australian National University and her colleagues used survey data from 8000 individuals to try to figure out how many hours people can work before their mental health starts to decline.

On average, the threshold is 39 hours – almost the same as a 40-hour week, although much less than the legal limit of 48 hours in many countries.

But the situation is very different for women with unpaid care commitments: their mental health begins to decline after just 31 hours of paid work. So the current system puts women at a disadvantage.

  • Men: 43.5 hours.
  • Men (with unpaid care commitments): 42 hours.
  • Women: 38 hours.
  • Women (with unpaid care commitments): 31 hours.

The number of hours people can work before their mental health declines depends on personal circumstances.

“A Culture in which which different uses of time are expected from women and men has been the most important barrier to equal opportunity,” say Anna Coote, also of the New Economics Foundation.

This hasn’t just been bad for women, she says. “Men have been cut off from their children and family life.”” (Le Page, 2019, p.20).


Le Page, M. (2019) Time for some more time off. New Scientist. 13 April 2019, pp.20-21.


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