A recent study from the University of Bergen shows that 8.3 per cent of the Norwegian work force is addicted to work to the point where it becomes a health issue.
In spite of the many positive aspects of work, some people are unable to detach from it -- working excessively and compulsively. These are called workaholics.
Postdoctoral Fellow Cecilie Schou Andreassen and colleagues from the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway has been the first to assess workaholism in a nationally representative sample.
According to Schou Andreassen, the "workaholism" concept has been studied by scholars for nearly 45 years. Still, reliable statistics on the prevalence of workaholism is hard to find. The research field primarily relies upon poor measures used in small non-representative samples from the United States.
Measuring work addiction Schou Andreassen is no stranger to this type of research, having previously developed an instrument to measure work addiction called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale (BWAS). The BWAS is the first workaholism instrument that is based on core symptoms found in more traditional drug addictions; i.e., salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflict, relapse, problems.
Schou Andreassen and her research team have developed seven criteria to measure work addiction:
"If you reply 'often' or 'always' to at least four of these seven criteria, there is some indication that you may be a workaholic," says Schou Andreassen. "This is the first scale to use core symptoms of addiction found in other more traditional addictions."
Young adults most affected The study found that 8.3 per cent of all Norwegians are addicted to work. There are, however, no differences between the genders. Both men and women tend to compulsively overwork.
"We did find that younger adults were affected to a greater extent than older workers," says Schou Andreassen. "However, workaholism seems unrelated to gender, education level, marital status or part-time versus full-time employment."
Those with caretaker responsibility for children living at home were more likely to be affected than those without children.
Workaholics scored higher on three personality traits:
Huge practical implications Schou Andreassen points out that workaholism may have contradictory psychological, physiological, and social outcomes. As a significant group seemingly is affected, focus on this phenomenon is timely, especially among health professionals and researchers. But employers, politicians, legislators/lawyers, and journalists should also acknowledge the topic as well.
"As workaholism is not a formal diagnosis the development of treatment models and real treatment offers has been lacking. The fact that more than eight per cent of the general work population seems to suffer from workaholism underlines the need for proper treatment and other relevant interventions," says Cecilie Schou Andreassen.
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