Study finds working 1 day a week is all you need for mental health benefits from employment

For many who think the traditional 40-hour workweek is too taxing and unnecessary, science seems to agree with you.

In a study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, sociologists found that working only once a week is enough to gain the mental health benefits that a paid job provides.

They found that the risk of mental health problems reduced by an average of 30 percent when people moved from unemployment or stay-at-home parenting into paid work for eight hours or less per week.

Researchers examined more than 70,000 U.K. residents between 2009 and 2018, analyzing variations in working hours linked to mental health and overall satisfaction with life.

In a press release, authors of the study cited predictions of a jobless future of people, in which technological development could result in a significant shortage in paid work.

“In the next few decades we could see artificial intelligence, big data and robotics replace much of the paid work currently done by humans," said Dr. Daiga Kamerade, co-author of the study and researcher at the University of Salford, Manchester.

Researchers did not find. however, that working more than eight hours provided any more benefits to mental health and well-being.

Interestingly, researchers also found that overall satisfaction with life reported in men increased by roughly 30 percent with up to eight hours of paid work, while a similar jump wasn’t seen in women until working 20 hours.

"We know unemployment is often detrimental to people's well-being, negatively affecting identity, status, time use, and sense of collective purpose,” said co-author Dr. Brendan Burchell, a sociologist from Cambridge University.

“We now have some idea of just how much paid work is needed to get the psychosocial benefits of employment -- and it's not that much at all.“

Researchers of the study also argue that a reduction in the traditional 40-50 hour work week could “improve work-life balance, increase productivity, and cut down CO2 emissions from commuting.”

"The traditional model, in which everyone works around 40 hours a week, was never based on how much work was good for people, said co-author and Cambridge sociologist Senhu Wang.

“Our research suggests that micro-jobs provide the same psychological benefits as full-time jobs."