Engaging in late-night work with demanding schedules from a young age escalates the likelihood of experiencing depression and deteriorating health in midlife. This insight stems from a recent study led by Wen-Jui Han, a professor at NYU, published in PLOS One. Analyzing the work patterns and sleep habits of 7,000 Americans over three decades, researchers uncovered that only a quarter of participants adhered to regular daytime hours. Among the surveyed individuals, aged 22 to 50, three-quarters were born in the 1960s.

Comparing those with daytime schedules to counterparts who worked night shifts or rotating shifts in their youth, findings revealed heightened difficulties in sleep and increased susceptibility to health issues and depression around age 50. The accumulation of excessive work hours and the embrace of a hurried culture over decades led Han’s physician to diagnose her, at age 40, with the biological age of a sixty-year-old. This spurred her investigation into the potential long-term health impacts of extended work hours.

“Our contemporary work habits breed illness and financial strain,” elucidated Han. “Work ought to foster resource accumulation, yet for many, it fosters discontent over time,” she continued. “I trust that research can furnish resources to aid individuals in cultivating happiness and well-being amidst physical exhaustion and emotional depletion due to work,” Han added. “While individuals may appear eager to work prolonged hours, the reality is more complex,” Han noted.

“They perceive that the demands of their work culture necessitate extended hours, lest they face repercussions,” she clarified. Through her research, Han identified a statistical correlation between sacrificing adequate rest for work and an increased likelihood of experiencing depression or health complications. “When work becomes a daily stressor, these are the health ramifications we anticipate seeing three decades later,” Han underscored.

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