Long hours of work in the U.S.: associations with demographic and organizational characteristics, psychosocial working conditions, and health

Am J Ind Med. 2006 Nov;49(11):943-52. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20388.


Background: There are relatively few studies of large national databases that contain information on working hours and health. The current study involved an analysis of data from a quality of work life (QWL) module developed for the 2002 General Social Survey. This module collected work and health data from a representative sample of the U.S. population (N=1,744).

Methods: Descriptive analyses were conducted for five groups based on total hours worked per week: part-time (1-34 hr/week), full-time (35-40 hr/week), lower overtime (41-48 hr/week), medium overtime (49-69 hr/week), and higher overtime (70+ hr/week). Multiple logistic regression examined the association between these five categories and several measures of health and well-being.

Results: Compared to full-time workers, the three groups of overtime workers were more likely to be male, white, and middle-aged, with higher levels of education and income. They were also more likely to be self-employed, salaried, work as independent contractors, have more than one job, and work split/irregular/on-call shifts. Although overtime work was characterized by higher levels of job stress and perceptions of overwork, it was also associated with increased levels of participation in decision making and opportunities to develop special abilities. Several significant associations emerged between hours of work and measures of health and well-being, particularly for respondents in the higher overtime group (70+ hr/week).

Conclusion: Overtime workers differ from their part-time and full-time counterparts in several important areas. Some of these differences tended to increase with the number of overtime hours worked, suggesting a linear relationship. However, caution is warranted before generalizing the results of this study to specific occupations or workplaces.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Workload*
  • Workplace