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The longitudinal relationship between control over working hours and depressive symptoms: Results from SLOSH, a population-based cohort study
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute. Radboud University, The Netherlands.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3127-5077
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8433-2405
2017 (English)In: Journal of Affective Disorders, ISSN 0165-0327, E-ISSN 1573-2517, Vol. 215, p. 143-151Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

BACKGROUND: Psychosocial work factors can affect depressive moods, but research is inconclusive if flexibility to self-determine working hours (work-time control, WTC) is associated with depressive symptoms over time. We investigated if either sub-dimension of WTC, control over daily hours and control over time off, was related to depressive symptoms over time and examined causal, reversed-causal, and reciprocal pathways.

METHODS: The study was based on four waves of the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health which is a follow-up of representative samples of the Swedish working population. WTC was measured using a 5-item index. Depressive symptoms were assessed with a brief subscale of the Symptom Checklist. Latent growth curve models and cross-lagged panel models were tested.

RESULTS: Best fit was found for a model with correlated intercepts (control over daily hours) and both correlated intercepts and slopes (control over time off) between WTC and depressive symptoms, with stronger associations for control over time off. Causal models estimating impacts from WTC to subsequent depressive symptoms were best fitting, with a standardised coefficient between -0.023 and -0.048.

LIMITATIONS: Results were mainly based on self-report data and mean age in the study sample was relatively high.

CONCLUSION: Higher WTC was related to fewer depressive symptoms over time albeit small effects. Giving workers control over working hours - especially over taking breaks and vacation - may improve working conditions and buffer against developing depression, potentially by enabling workers to recover more easily and promoting work-life balance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 215, p. 143-151
Keywords [en]
Work-time control, Flexible working hours, Psychosocial work environment, Prospective study, Autonomy
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-141489DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.03.010ISI: 000401213300020PubMedID: 28324780OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-141489DiVA, id: diva2:1087007
Available from: 2017-04-05 Created: 2017-04-05 Last updated: 2022-02-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Highs and Lows of Work-Time Control: Exploring the role of control over working hours for health
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Highs and Lows of Work-Time Control: Exploring the role of control over working hours for health
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Flexible work-time arrangements are thought to create ways of aligning work and private life and facilitate recovery. While temporal flexibility is found to generally bolster work–life balance, its effects on health outcomes are less well known. The present thesis seeks to examine if and how perceived control over working hours benefits workers’ health. Utilising a large Swedish cohort study, four empirical studies explored the association of work-time control (WTC) with subsequent mental and physical health as well as the underlying mechanisms and moderating influences.

Study I assessed the factorial structure of an instrument to measure WTC and found two sub-dimensions: control over daily hours (the length, starting and ending times of a workday) and control over time off (the taking of breaks/time/days off, paid and unpaid). Levels of control per sub-dimension were described by demographic and work-related factors for a large sample of Swedish workers. In particular, shift, public sector and female workers reported low levels of WTC.

Study II examined effects of control over daily hours and time off on depressive symptoms. Increasing control over time off was related to decreasing depressive symptoms over time, whereas only initial level of control over daily hours was associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms. For both sub-dimensions of WTC, the direction of this effect was predominantly from perceived control to subsequent depressive symptoms; reversed processes were of less importance.

Study III focused on work–life interference as one step on the causal chain between WTC and depressive symptoms and musculoskeletal complaints, respectively. For both sub-dimensions of WTC, part of the effect on depressive symptoms went through work–life interference. Reversed processes played a role between depressive symptoms and work–life interference only. Control over time off was found to mitigate work–life interference and subsequent depressive symptoms more than control over daily hours, albeit with generally small effects. Regarding musculoskeletal complaints, effects were even smaller and work–life interference appeared to be less important.

Study IV assessed gender differences in the impact of WTC on work–life interference and exhaustion regarding the mediating role of overtime hours. In a sample of knowledge workers, higher control over time off was associated with lower subsequent work–life interference and exhaustion, while control over daily hours was unrelated to both outcomes. Although men worked more overtime hours than women on average, no evidence was found for men with high control over time off/daily hours to perceive more work–life interference/exhaustion due to increased overtime compared to women.

This thesis found that higher levels of WTC were beneficial for a range of health outcomes, which was partly explained by fewer work–life conflicts. While these effects were generally small, control over time off in particular was consistently associated with favourable outcomes in health, work-life balance and working hours. Given that the level of workers’ discretion over working hours varies starkly by work and demographic factors, enhancing the availability of flexible work-time arrangements is in the interest of public health. WTC, with a particular focus on employees’ ability to take time off from work, may improve the daily work–life interface and support a sustainable working life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University, 2021. p. 110
Series
Stockholm Studies in Public Health Sciences, ISSN 2003-0061 ; 5
Keywords
flexible work, flexible work-time arrangements, autonomy, psychosocial working conditions, longitudinal, mental health, physical health, work-life balance
National Category
Occupational Health and Environmental Health Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Public Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-197318 (URN)978-91-7911-646-0 (ISBN)978-91-7911-647-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2021-12-10, lärosal 18, hus 2, Albanovägen 12 and online via Zoom, public link is available at the department website, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2013-0448NordForsk, 74809
Available from: 2021-11-17 Created: 2021-10-11 Last updated: 2022-02-25Bibliographically approved

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Albrecht, Sophie C.Kecklund, GöranRajaleid, KristiinaLeineweber, Constanze

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