Study Suggests Eight Hours A Week Is 'Enough' For Mental Wellbeing
There's new evidence to suggest that the working week should be cut down drastically as new research claims we should only clock on for eight hours - or one day - a week to provide the mental health benefits of paid employment.
The new study claims that eight hours is the most 'effective dose' for mental health benefits, and anything more than that can begin to affect our wellbeing.
Mental health issues can be reduced by as much as 30 per cent when someone moves into eight hours of paid work per week after being unemployed, the research found.
Sociologists at both the Universities of Cambridge and Salford, who carried out the study, also found there was no evidence to suggest that working over eight hours provides any further boost to mental wellbeing.
The universities' joint research, which was published in journal Social Science & Medicine, was conducted amid concerns over the rise of automated technology, which could lead to shorter working hours for everyone.
The team used data from a survey of more than 70,000 UK residents between 2009 and 2018 to examine how changes in working hours are linked to mental health and life satisfaction.
"We have effective dosage guides for everything from vitamin C to hours of sleep in order to help us feel better, but this is the first time the question has been asked of paid work," said study co-author Dr Brendan Burchell, who is a sociologist at the University of Cambridge.
He continued: "We know unemployment is often detrimental to people's wellbeing, negatively affecting identity, status, time use, and sense of collective purpose.
"We now have some idea of just how much paid work is needed to get the psychosocial benefits of employment - and it's not that much at all."
Researchers also discussed how to support the unemployed in a future with limited work if robots do take over our jobs eventually.
"In the next few decades we could see artificial intelligence, big data and robotics replace much of the paid work currently done by humans," added Dr Daiga Kamerade, the study's first author from the University of Salford.
"If there is not enough for everybody who wants to work full-time, we will have to rethink current norms.
"This should include the redistribution of working hours, so everyone can get the mental health benefits of a job, even if that means we all work much shorter weeks."
Researchers even suggested the possibility of five day-long weekends if work becomes limited, working just two hours per day or increasing annual holiday from weeks to months.
Dr Burchell said: "If the UK were to plough annual productivity gains into reduced working hours rather than pay rises, the normal working week could be four days within a decade."
Dr Jed Boardman, lead for social inclusion at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, added: "We know that unemployment is bad for mental health and wellbeing, and that being in work can be good for you.
"But being in jobs with low levels of control, high demands and complexity, job insecurity, and unfair pay can be as bad for a person's mental health as unemployment," he added.
"This high-quality study reinforces what we already know, but suggests that reduction of working hours can have benefits for people's mental health and wellbeing."
We are so on board.
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