Working Long Hours ‘Linked to Depression’

“Working eleven hours a day can lead to severe depression,” Metro has reported.

According to the newspaper, staff who put in 11 or more hours a day at the office are twice as likely to suffer a severe bout of depression than those working just eight.

This news is based on a study that examined the working habits of over 2,000 UK civil servants and how their working related to major depressive symptoms in the six years that followed. After accounting for other factors linked to depression, the researchers found that working 11 or more hours a week was associated with a 2.5 times increase the odds of experiencing a major depressive episode compared with their colleagues working the Civil Service’s standard seven to eight hours a day.

This research has found a link between working overtime and the risk of subsequent major depressive episodes. However, the relationship is complicated and this research cannot concretely tell whether or not overtime actually causes depression. Verifying this potential link would probably require controlled studies looking at whether or not cutting back work hours proves effective at reducing people’s risk of depression.

Also, this study found strong links between financial status, seniority and a reduced risk of major depression, making the influence of working hours harder to judge. Overall, it is likely that several factors work together to cause depression and the role working hours play in this is unclear.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Queen Mary’s of the University of London, University College of London, the University of Bristol, McGill University in Canada, and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The research was funded by the Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, the Stroke Association and the US National Institutes of Health.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journalPLoS ONE.

The study was covered appropriately in the media, although headlines that suggested working overtime definitely causes depression are not supported by the research. The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent all reported, in both their headlines and main story, that the research found an association or link between overtime and the risk of depression.

What kind of research was this?

This was a prospective cohort study that examined the association between people’s number of hours worked a day and their risk of going on to experience a major depressive episode (MDE).

This research analysed data from a large well-known cohort study, called the Whitehall II study, which examined how work related to health in over 10,000 London based civil servants. This particular analysis on depression included full-time workers who were free from any psychiatric disorders and still employed at the time of the study’s follow-up period.

Prospective cohort studies have the advantage of ensuring that the exposure of interest (in this case, working hours) precedes the outcome of interest (experiencing MDE). This is one of several criteria needed to show causality. It is not, however, sufficient on its own to prove that the number of hours worked leads to or causes depression.

What did the research involve?

At the start of the study (known as the baseline) participants completed a survey that included questions on:

  • job characteristics: including hours worked, degree of work stress, strain and social support
  • socio-demographic factors: including sex, age, marital states and socio-economic status
  • health-related behaviours: including alcohol consumption and smoking status
  • physical health: including the presence of a longstanding illness or coronary heart disease

Participants were divided into four groups based on their working hours:

  • those who worked seven to eight hours a day (the standard civil service day)
  • those who worked nine hours a day (classed as one hour of overtime a day)
  • those who worked 10 hours a day (classed as two hours of overtime a day)
  • those who worked 11 to 12 hours a day (classed as three to four hours of overtime a day)

Approximately six years later they completed another interview that included a clinical health examination. At this interview, researchers determined whether or not participants had experienced a MDE during the previous year.

Researchers then analysed the data to assess how the odds of experiencing MDE in the two groups working the fewest and most hours. This analysis adjusted for possible confounding factors, including the baseline job characteristics, socio-demographic, health-related and physical health factors outlined above, in several separate analyses.

What were the basic results?

In all, 2,123 participants were included in the study. Those included in this study tended to be younger than those participating in the general Whitehall II cohort, and more likely to be male, married and from higher occupational grades. Participants were also more likely to experience low work strain than the Whitehall II cohort, and less likely to have a chronic disease or be a smoker.

Of the included participants:

  • 52% worked a standard seven to eight-hour day
  • 21% worked a nine-hour day
  • 16% worked a 10-hour day
  • 11% worked an 11- to 12-hour day

Employees with the longest working days were more likely to be male, married, from higher occupational grades, have more active jobs and high social support at work compared to those who worked the standard seven to eight-hour day. In addition, they tended to drink more alcohol than the recommended daily limits and to be ex-smokers.

Of the 2,123 participants, 66 experienced a major depressive episode; this is equivalent to a 3.1% rate of depression. When assessing MDE risk, and adjusting for multiple potential confounding variables, the researchers found that employees who worked 11 to 12 hours a day had 2.52 time the odds of experiencing MDE compared to those who worked the standard seven to eight hours a day (Odds ratio [OR] 2.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.12 to 5.65).

Other factors that were associated with increased odds of MDE were:

  • sex: females were just over twice as likely to experience MDE compared to males (OR 2.08, 95% CI 1.25 to 3.46)
  • presence of a chronic physical disease (OR 2.30, 95% CI 1.41 to 3.78)
  • moderate alcohol consumption, compared to teetotallers (OR 2.68, 95% CI 1.05 to 6.82)
  • lower occupational grades (grades 4-5), compared to the highest grade, which is grade 1 (grade 5: OR 4.53, 95% CI 1.47 to 13.90; grade 4: OR 3.19, 95% CI 1.02 to 9.99)

Factors that were not associated with increased odds of MDE included:

  • marital status
  • smoking status
  • high alcohol use
  • job strain
  • social support at work

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers conclude that, ‘working overtime predicted the onset of a major depressive episode in a middle-aged cohort of British civil servants’. They add that this association held after adjusting for ‘a range of socio-demographic, lifestyle and work-related factors at baseline.’


This was a large cohort study that examined the association between the number of hours worked a day and the risk of subsequent major depressive disorder. It found that, after an adjusted analysis, those who worked three to four hours of overtime a day at the start of the study had a 2.5 fold increase in the chance they would go on to experience MDE.

The size and prospective nature of this cohort study mean that we can be quite confident in the results. There are, however, several limitations to the study that should be considered before insisting that our work hours are cut back. These include:

  • The participants in this study were a specific subgroup of an already specific cohort group. Generalising these results to non-urban, non-civil service workers may not be appropriate. The researchers call for further research to determine whether this association can be found in non-civil service contexts.
  • This study only included workers with no history of psychological disorders. It is unclear how work hours influence mental health in people with a history of psychological disorders.
  • Working hours were assessed only at the start of the study. It is possible that these conditions changed in the six years between the first and second interviews. This could have distorted the results.
  • There were a limited number of MDE cases in the cohort. This makes it impossible to determine the role specific factors play in this association.
  • Despite news reports to the contrary, the researchers say that this study cannot offer plausible explanations of why long working hours are associated with the development of depression. The say that ‘intervention studies are needed to examine whether interventions designed to reduce working hours would alter depression risk in working populations’.
  • The rate of depression found in this study being 3.1%. While those with longer workdays were found to have 2.5 times greater odds of MDE, this is still a low rate overall. Additionally, this rate is lower than the general population rate of depression, which the authors estimate to be approximately 5%.
  • This study confirmed a strong link between occupational grade and depression, with higher socioeconomic status associated with a reduced risk of major depression. This had to be carefully adjusted for in the analysis.
  • Major depressive episodes involve a specific range of depressive symptoms, but people can also experience milder forms of depression that will not meet the criteria for this diagnosis.

Overall, this research indicates that a very specific subset of civil servants were at increased risk of experiencing a major depressive episode. It is likely that several factors work together as ‘causes’ of depression and so the researchers were correct to avoid saying that they had found a cause.


Virtanen M, Stansfeld SA, Fuhrer R, Ferrie JE, Kivima M. Overtime Work as a Predictor of Major Depressive Episode: A 5-Year Follow-Up of the Whitehall II Study. PLoS One 2012; 7(1):e30719.

Original Article:



New Year, New You

It has been an exciting year at Breakthrough Retreats, we have had so many “firsts” to celebrate!

We have had so many enquiries for our “Surviving Christmas” Retreat.  It must be that this is always a stressful time for families as well as people on their own.

We have widened our choice of venue and this has proved a good move and we have some very complimentary responses. But our love for the sea and Cornwall takes us back there time after time, there is no doubt it is a very special environment for mind, body and spirit.

Maureen is currently working on a series of CDs for self-hypnosis – so watch this space.

The whole team has put together a “Zest for Life Program” that can work as a one to one Retreat or in a group situation so if this interests you please register your interest with us and we will send you details when we can launch it. It is all about looking after yourself and having a healthy lifestyle.

Don’t forget that as well the Retreats we are able to offer telephone counselling, We are currently offering, a telephone counselling package, buy 5 half hour sessions and get an extra one free.

If you have any ideas for short courses you would like to do please let us know and we can probably come up with something! We always like to hear from you so whether you are booking a Retreat or not! Go to “contact us” and keep in touch, speak to you soon!

Surviving Christmas when you’re single

Christmas doesn’t spell misery for all single people, but for some of us it can be a very tough time. The festive period stirs up all kinds of emotions, so what do you do if you’re dreading it?

 We’re not saying every single person dreads Christmas – far from it. BUT a large proportion of singles DO find the festive season tough. Whether it’s meeting up with old friends who are now in relationships, or negotiating nosy family members who ask, ‘Haven’t found anyone yet then?’, being single at Christmas can feel more like a fight for survival than a joyful holiday.

But, rather than locking yourself away with leftover turkey and Morecambe and Wise repeats, here are a few tips on tackling December with confidence.

Don’t wallow

This is the cardinal rule of being single at Christmas – and in fact the whole year round. If you wallow in your feelings of misery, you’ll enter into a downward spiral. Misery breeds misery, and it pushes people away. How often have you walked into a party and thought, ‘ooh, I’ll talk to that miserable person over there’? We’re guessing never.

We know that it’s often easier said than done to banish those feelings of sadness – especially if you find yourself remembering last Christmas when things were better for you – but do try. As soon as you feel your mind wandering, distract yourself. Volunteer to do some cooking, call up a friend:  just get your mind off that subject.

Gather round, one and all

If the prospect of walking into a gathering of family or friends without someone on your arm is wholly intimidating, fight that feeling. The fact is that people are paying far less attention to you than you think they are. Simply try to enjoy the company of friends and family you don’t often see; after all, what’s funnier than Aunt Margaret after a few too many sherries? If you really can’t face it, coerce a friend into going with you – but take care, if you think all your attention will be spent making sure they’re ok rather than socialising, it’s a pointless exercise.

Fill your time

This goes hand in hand with ‘Don’t wallow’. If you’ve been single for a while, you’ll probably be a dab hand at planning and filling your time. And that’s no bad thing – how often do you hear coupled friends moaning they can’t go out because ‘Rachel has promised to cook me dinner this evening’?  Whereas, you have no one else’s calendar to worry about. Grab the festive season with both hands; attend parties, see old friends, visit Christmas markets and invite other single friends round for dinner.

Feel good about yourself

So, you’ve got some spare time on your hands. Why not volunteer for a charity such as Crisis, over Christmas. Amazingly, some charities get over subscribed for volunteers on Christmas Day and Boxing Day but there’ll always be someone in need at some point over the festive season.

Don’t be the only single person at the party

Whilst you should stay social, try to avoid being the only single person at a party if you think it will bother you. Take a friend, or arrange to do something else. Of course, if you’re happy to be around just couples then party away.

Come up with a good comeback for nosy relatives

If there’s one thing to guarantee you regressing to being a sulky child, it’s a nosy relative inquiring about your love life. Yes it’s petty, but the fact is that when your smug distant cousin and his new wife are bearing down on you at a family gathering you’ll do well to have some stock answers to their potentially prying questions. This can range from the genuine (I just haven’t found the right person yet) to the flippant (I didn’t fancy buying so many presents this year) – whatever you’re comfortable with, just be prepared.

Look on the bright side

There are actually lots of bonuses to being single at Christmas – no agonising over presents for your partner, no stress over whose house to eat Christmas dinner at, being able to go to any party you want…the list goes on. Still feeling miserable? Remember that Christmas puts huge pressure on couples too, with 1.8million considering divorce over the period, according to Family Mediation Helpline. Also remember that there is life after Christmas – after all, it is just a week and it’ll soon be January. (And if the prospect of a cold and grey January doesn’t persuade you to enjoy the moment, nothing will)

Get away from it all

And, if you honestly can’t face Christmas at home, take the chance to be completely selfish and have a winter break, maybe get away for a Breakthrough Retreat? Relish your lack of responsibilities and spend a week lying on a beach, not sparing a thought for overeating and enforced jollity.

Original Article Courtesy of E-Harmony

Boom Time For Therapists As Stress Soars Among Young City Workers

Work patterns changed beyond recognition in a decade, occupational stress the norm, few benefit from technology’s ease: can Britain ever take it easy again?

With the pressure of few shopping days till Christmas, financial worries and frantic lifestyles of expectation, social-media and the ‘now’, all ages feel under stress. In-Deed, an online conveyancing company published a November 2011 survey saying that selling or buying a house ages people by two years. They didn’t find how much stress people suffer who can’t sell their homes.

How much is healthy, creative stress and how much is destructive? More of the latter has far-reaching consequences for our legislation, legal / educational / welfare / employment / transport systems. In short, for our whole way of life.

Most employed accept some occupational stress. When a social worker’s stress is classified as ‘industrial injury’, there’s a view that pressure on caring professions may be greater than others. Or that it wasn’t recognised before.

The Prime Minister or cabinet colleagues taking a break causes criticism, as if they have abandoned their macho-credentials by having a holiday. Others think they are better at their jobs if they take regular rests. Will Britain be better for a seasonal respite from politics?

Clearly, the 24-hour world doesn’t slow, issues don’t stop piling, cries for government ‘to do something’ don’t diminish. But all things in perspective is the way to better government at home and abroad.

Pay Not Necessarily the Issue

There was widespread amazement (early November 2011) that Lloyds Banking Group chief executive Antonio Horta-Osario was taking time off, suffering ‘extreme fatigue’. People thought an £8 million salary package and only eight months into the job would mitigate his stress.

When incoming chief of Ofsted, the government’s education watchdog, Sir Michael Wilshaw, announced that teachers should be allowed sabbaticals to ‘return to the classroom refreshed’, many people outside education assumed that 13 weeks annual holiday, reasonable salary and pension would be refreshment enough.

Eyebrows were raised when Robin Henry wrote in the Sunday Times (Nov 2011) that stress was ‘soaring among young City workers’. Medics expect to diagnose burnout in midlife, now ‘twentysomethings, the cream, of the crop in top-paid jobs’ find stress levels ‘wrecking their lives’.

Salary aside, stress is a problematic issue of our times. Anhedonia is the condition that prevents, according to Henry, ‘sufferers deriving any pleasure from their lives’. Insomnia, drug abuse, anxiety and depression are increasing.

Robert Colvile highlighted the growing problem of British stress in the Daily Telegraph (November 2011), asking ‘how much more can we take?’ He showed that more than half state-sector teachers take an annual average 9 days sick: ‘they can’t all be faking it’. It was a problem he felt can’t be ‘brushed under the carpet’.

The Climate

Colvile and others cited the ‘excuse’ of the economic climate. Banking isn’t the only sector suffering uncertainties, cutbacks, media hostility and stressed staff. The Eurozone crisis, the general global economic outlook, shortage of resources, price pressures and constant demands from a data/social media/instant culture affect everybody.

Psychology Today defines stress as: ‘reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium’. They say it’s an omnipresent part of life. A stressful event can trigger the ‘fight-or-flight’ response, causing hormones like adrenalin and cortisol to surge through the body. ‘A little bit of stress is exciting—it keeps us active and alert. But chronic stress can have detrimental effects on health’.

Individual and family financial stress is also increasing, further affecting health. Worries about rising winter energy bills, paying mortgages/rent and job/pension insecurities increase drinking, smoking, overeating and encourage unhealthy ‘coping’ activities.

With less money, people cut corners on personal care, healthy food and quality personal/family time and may borrow beyond their means. Anxiety and sleep loss exacerbates poor cognitive abilities and immune functioning, so stress is part of a truly vicious circle. This in turn leads to more public money needed for symptom treatment.

Policy Issues

Therefore, stress is not only an economic or behavioural indicator, it’s political. More people are depressed during the darker days of winter, (Seasonal Affected Disorder), and the mood of the nation is not only an opinion poll influencing elections, but a pointer for government priorities.

The quantity of assessing/testing children and teenagers (school and national tests, exams and regular target-driven monitoring) sets some off with stress and anxiety. For most, the joys of learning for learning sake without justification by assessment are a historical quirk.

Searching for work in a shrinking economy where employers demand the sort of experience young people neither have nor can acquire without a job is also stressful. The classification of thousands of young people into ‘NEETS’ (not in education, employment or training) is damning and glib, if technically accurate.

When business leaders and politicians show signs of stress-influenced behaviour and extreme emotional and physical fatigue, what can be done? Film of haggard, drained leaders emerging punch-drunk from marathon summits to solve impossible problems, do nobody any favours. Indeed, the world is suffering ‘summit fatigue’ now.

If stress is part of life and a fast-moving, constantly changing world is where we live, there’s surely a limit to antidotes politicos can convincingly offer?

Stress Relievers

The internet is awash with sites offering methods/potions as the panacea for stress. BootsMD offer tips including: maintain a positive attitude, accept events beyond anybody’s control, be assertive instead of aggressive, express feelings/opinions/beliefs rather than become angry or defensive.

They urge people to exercise regularly, try meditation/yoga/tai-chi, eat healthily, mange time effectively, set limits, make time for interests and social support and seek mental health treatment as needed.

And of course, to book a Breakthrough Retreat!


Daily Telegraph, Robert Colvile, The stress of life takes its toll. 2 November 2011. Web 3 Nov 2011.

Sunday Times, Robin Henry, Boom time for therapists as stress soars. 6 November 2011.

BootswebMD. August 2009. Web 3 November 2011.

Stress Management Society. Web 4 November 2011.

Psychology Today. Web 7 November 2011.

Television news reports on teacher stress, April 2010. Web 7 November 2011.

Main Article By: Suite101. Stress Could Be the Next Key Factor in British Politics.

Christmas. Bring it on!

Handling Christmas with confidence and style. Christmas is the most stressful time of the year. Always hated it? Dread it because loved ones are no longer around to share it with you? Trying to recapture the magic of Christmas? All the good things can be gift wrapped just for you in time for Christmas.

We at Breakthrough Retreat take this crisis on board. We aim with one of our suggested residential group or 1 to 1 Retreats to devise a Christmas survival package just for you and your circumstances so you can go away actually looking forward to the festive season with a Christmas hamper of psychological tools.

Please do check out our website for more information.

Where is the Sparkle in Your Life?

Have you met people who make an instant positive impression on you? Learn how to be that. When you sparkle and learn to love yourself, new people come into your life and the people in your life will treat you differently.

Grow confidence.  Fill your life with love and laughter. Celebrate all your successes by understanding yourself; you will be amazed at the rapport you can build with others.

Breakthrough Retreats will rekindle your flame.

Could This Be The Beginning Of Something Big?

Hello Everybody,

February is here and the first signs of spring are in the air. It feels warmer at least!

Pretty Gate at Bosweddon House, Cape Cornwall, a home to Breakthrough Retreats
Pretty Gate at Bosweddon House, Cape Cornwall, a home to Breakthrough Retreats

Everyone needs clarity in their life and to be able to see things with new eyes.

You may have already been on a Breakthrough Retreat and have turned your life around or you may be thinking that this is a gift that you would like to give to yourself.

For those of you who haven’t visited our website recently and read the testimonials we recommend that you do and read the amazing stories.

This time of the year is all about growth and potential.  Everything has a season.

Everyone has something they want to achieve or have been putting off whether it is finding that new job, redefining your relationships, looking at your core values and belief systems.  You may be asking where your spirituality has gone? Make this your Best Year; Ever!

You can do something about this and we are here to assist you on your journey.

As ever we are always ready to respond to your needs.

We are organising a group event to increase your energy levels and focus on results and we will give this the same careful attention to detail as we do for our one-to-one Retreats. We promise to make it affordable and exciting!

In the meantime, we want you to be thinking that in a day’s time you could have already spoken to Maureen.  In a week’s time you could have booked your place or secured a coaching program to suit your needs, in a month’s time you could have already changed your life and stepped forward into the new, wonderful you or you could stay doing the same as you have done and achieved nothing.

It only takes one step to start a new life!


Can you make the first step?

Maureen x

Seeds of Wisdom

Midwinter is soon upon us, the darkest time of the year. This is a time to push our seeds deep in the ground, to slow down, to rest – and to dream.

Jung said, “Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.”

Maureen says we need to do both now – to awaken the inner temple and to dream a new way of life for our world. If the dream of our world has turned to a nightmare, then we must awaken to break the spell. Only the awakened soul can truly serve what is new and emerging.

We don’t need to buy more things, we need more wisdom. We need healing, guidance, truth.  These will sustain our future more than a new sweater, more than jewellery, more than the latest electronic gizmo.

The chakras are the chambers of the inner temple of wisdom. They awaken the inner divine and change the dream on the outside. They guide us to the future, providing an essential map for the journey. They describe the architecture of the soul.

Give the gift of healing and wisdom. Help someone you love find their way home to their own Sacred Centre once again. The awakened soul is a gift to everyone they touch.

Love & Light,

Maureen Courtney