Are You Working Yourself Sick? Here’s How to Tell and What to Do About It!

Are you 100 percent devoted to your job? Do you keep working to hit those project goals long after everyone else has called it a day and headed off to spend time with their families? If so, you could be a workaholic.

And although it’s no secret that being a workaholic can hurt relationships, a new study is revealing that job devotion also carries health risks.

Here’s how to determine the likelihood that you are or will become a workaholic based on the research, and how to keep it from ruining your health…

Where job demands meet job control

Previous studies have shown that your job can have an intimate effect on your health. A German study found that workaholics carry a 45 percent larger risk of diabetes.  A study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts found that women who have high job stress are at an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.

But what exactly defines a workaholic?

A study, performed at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, defined a workaholic as a person who usually works seven or more hours extra per week compared to others. This increased time on the job could be caused by everything from financial problems and marital difficulties to the pressure put on them by their company or their boss.

And the researchers specifically set out to demonstrate the extent to which risk of work addiction is associated with a person’s perception of their work — basically the intersection of the demands of their job versus how much control they have over it — and their health dangers.

Participants were split into four groups:

  • Passive – These jobs are ones where you have low control over your job, but the demands placed on you are equally low. And according to the team, they can be satisfying as long as you’re able to reach the goals set for you.
  • Low-strain – Low strain jobs on the other hand have high job control but low demands. An example of this type of job would be anything in the creative field, like being an architect. And the research showed that if you fall into this category, you’re not generally at risk of mental health problems due to workaholism.
  • Active – Active jobs are ones where both the demands and the control go up. This category is where you see highly skilled professionals, like the heads and directors of companies.
  • Tense/job-strain – The final category is the “job strain” group. And if you’re in this group (for example if you’re a healthcare worker in the emergency room), you experience high demand but low control on a daily basis.

Which category do you think is at risk for stress-related disorders thanks to becoming a workaholic?

If you said group four, you’d be right!

The combination of a huge workload and practically no say in the job seems like it couldn’t help but lead to a higher risk of work addiction, plus its negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and more.

However, it’s important to note that there was a second at-risk category — the “active” job category. In fact, while the results showed that high job demands at work are strongly associated with work addiction risk, job control level doesn’t play the same role.

This means that if you have a job that requires a lot from you (whether or not the things you do are in your control), you are in more danger of becoming a workaholic than someone with low job demands.

And be warned…

The researchers say that women have almost twice the work addiction risk as men!

Check your risk and make changes

So if you fall into a high-risk category, it could be time to take steps to protect yourself from work addiction and the mental and physical health problems that come with it.

A few things you can do to help include:

  • Uncover the hidden issue driving you – Are you worried, anxious, or fearful of losing your job? Do you crave approval and need the praises that come with a job well-done? It’s easier to overcome an issue when you understand its driving force.
  • Focus on the personal rather than the business – Look for the joy in the time you spend with your friends and family. Finding meaning in other areas of your life can help achieve the balance you need.
  • Set your schedule and be consistent – To break the habit of staying just a little later at work (and then a little later), set your work hours and stick to them.
  • Be off when you’re off – And once you leave the office—whether it’s a home office or an office away from home, take your mind off the clock.
  • Get away on a regular basis – Finally, be sure to use those backlogged vacation and personal days. They’re there for you to enjoy them and studies have proven that people who get away regularly are happier for it.

The pandemic has exacerbated many of the job-related strains that increase the risks of becoming a workaholic. If you’re working from home, it can be harder to separate work and home life. A few tips specific to helping you strike a healthy balance are suggested by the Jefferson Center:

  • Create a dedicated workspace so you have a clear divide between your work hours and free time.
  • Take regular breaks. If you were in the office, you’d have interactions with co-workers and take coffee and lunch breaks. At home, many of us feel extra pressure to perform and according to a study, since mid-March 2020, the average workday has increased by three hours. Take those breaks!
  • Establish a routine. When you no longer commute, it can throw a kink in your morning you have to adjust to. Creating a new routine helps you regain a sense of control that can keep you productive.

Remember, it’s good to be devoted to your work. But it’s even better to be devoted to your life!


Is Workaholism Ruining Your Life? 5 Ways to Overcome Your Problem — Inc.

Workaholism leads to mental and physical health problems — EurekAlert!

How to maintain a work-life balance during Coronavirus —The Jefferson Center