Researchers found workaholics were more likely to meet criteria for OCD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
Published in the journal PLOS One, the study found that workaholics were more likely to have anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than non-workaholics.
According to the study authors – including Cecilie Schou Andreassen of the Department of Psychological Science at the University of Bergen, Norway – workaholism has been defined as “being overly concerned about work, driven by an uncontrollable work motivation, and to investing so much time and effort to work that it impairs other important life areas.”
With an increasing amount of Americans facing longer working hours and increasing job demands, workaholism is believed to be a common occurrence, with some studies estimating that it affects around 10 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Andreassen and colleagues note that previous studies have suggested a link between workaholism and psychiatric disorders; they set out to gain a better understanding of this association.
The Bergen Work Addiction Scale
The team analyzed data of 16,426 working adults of a median age of 37 years.
The researchers used the Bergen Work Addiction Scale to identify workaholism among the subjects, which involved participants rating how often the following statements applied to them in the past year:
- You think about ways to free up more time for work
- You spend significantly more time working than originally planned
- You work to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, or depression
- Others have told you to work less but you don’t listen to them
- You become stressed if you are prevented from working
- Work is prioritized before hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise
- You work to the extent that it negatively impacts your health.
Participants rated each statement on a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (always). They were deemed a workaholic If they scored “often” or “always” on four or more statements, and this occurred for 7.8 percent of participants.
Workaholics more likely to meet criteria for psychiatric disorders
Additionally, all participants were assessed for psychiatric symptoms through the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale, the Obsession-Compulsive Inventory-Revised, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.
Compared with non-workaholics, the team found that workaholics were significantly more likely to have symptoms of psychiatric disorders.
A total of 32.7 percent of workaholics met ADHD criteria, compared with 12.7 percent of non-workaholics.
OCD criteria were met for 25.6 percent of workaholics, while only 8.7 percent of non-workaholics met OCD criteria.
Among workaholics, 33.8 percent met the criteria for anxiety and 8.9 percent met the criteria for depression, compared with 11.9 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, for non-workaholics.
Younger, single, and highly educated individuals with higher socioeconomic status were most likely to be workaholics, the researchers report.
Furthermore, workaholism was found to be more prevalent among individuals with managerial roles, those who worked in the private sector, and those who were self-employed.
Overall, the researchers say their results indicate that certain sociodemographic groups may be at increased risk of workaholism, and that workaholics may be more likely to have co-existing psychiatric conditions.
The authors add:
“Clearly, more research is warranted to elucidate these important relationships further. In the meantime, it is recommended that physicians and therapists should not take for granted that a seemingly successful workaholic does not have ADHD-related clinical features.
However, more research is needed to examine whether workaholism is totally negative for all individuals as it may be that workaholism may serve an important structuring function for those with mental health problems and those with social dysfunction.”