Background: Long working hours are detrimental to physical and mental health. However, the association between long working hours and psychosomatic symptoms have remained controversial, possibly because of the existence of mediators between working hours and psychosomatic stress responses. We hypothesized that lifestyle habits, regarding sleep and mealtimes, act as mediators, and analyzed the associations between long working hours, sleep duration, mealtime regularity, and psychosomatic stress responses in office workers.
Methods: From April 2017 to March 2018, an online cross-sectional survey regarding overtime work hours, work-related stress, sleep, and eating habits was conducted with employees of 17 companies located in Tokyo, Japan. Answers were obtained from 3559 employees, and 3100 provided written consent for the academic use of their answers, and were included in the analysis. A path analysis was conducted to assess the effect of overtime work on psychosomatic stress via shortened sleep or irregular mealtimes.
Results: Overtime work hours had no direct effect on psychosomatic stress responses and depressive symptoms. However, overtime work hours affected sleep duration and the regularity of mealtimes. The effects of overtime work hours on psychosomatic stress responses and depressive symptoms were completely mediated by sleep duration and the regularity of mealtimes.
Conclusion: Long working hours do not affect mental health directly; however, shortened sleep duration and irregular mealtimes mediate the effect of long working hours on psychosomatic stress responses and depressive symptoms.
Keywords: mealtimes; mediator; overtime work; psychosomatic stress responses; sleep.