The high health cost of overwork

A high number of Australians experience negative mental, general and social health consequences as a result of overwork, according to research released yesterday by The Australia Institute, in conjunction with beyondblue.

The report, Hard to get a break? found that overwork is becoming more common in Australia. Rising numbers of workers don’t take lunch breaks, don’t take their full leave entitlements and are not paid for overtime. Australia ranks 9th in the OECD for the number of hours worked per week with Australians averaging 43.2 hours per week.

The report found that, in 2013, around seven million workers (60 per cent) are not paid for the extra hours they work, compared to 45 per cent in 2009. In addition, 52% of Australians did not take their full leave entitlements in 2012. A significant number (3.8 million) of Australian workers routinely don’t take a lunch break, with one in two of them saying it’s because they are ‘too busy’.


After 20 years of governments pursuing a ‘flexible’ labour market, the report reveals that the majority of Australian employees are unhappy with their actual hours of work.


The health consequences of such overwork are physical (4.4 million Australians say they are missing out on time to exercise), mental (including stress, anxiety and sleep problems) and social (5.8 million saying work reduces the time they can spend with their family).

The report also says today’s blurred boundaries between work and home are associated with adverse effects including increased stress levels, burnout and poor physical health.

After 20 years of governments pursuing a ‘flexible’ labour market, the report reveals that the majority of Australian employees are unhappy with their actual hours of work.

As well as the overworked, the research also found many Australians experience poor health consequences including depression, sleep problems and high stress levels, as a result of being underemployed.

The report’s authors concluded that finding solutions to the problems of overwork and underwork is complex, but possible strategies include redistributing the unpaid overtime performed by the overworked to the millions of Australians who desire additional hours of work and commencing a national dialogue about smart technologies and the potential impact this may have on workers’ mental health due to the 24/7 nature of technology.

To read the report in full, click here.

Leave a Comment

About Faircount Media Group

Faircount Media Group is an independent custom publisher producing niche B2B magazines for a varied portfolio of media clients ranging from government to sport and luxury brands. Faircount Media Group also publishes a range of highly acclaimed in-house titles across defence, infrastructure and health. Faircount Media Group has offices in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

To find out more, please visit

About TNH print & online

Transforming the Nation’s Healthcare is a niche annual magazine and online news site delivering in-depth coverage of local, state and federal healthcare projects and policy. Transforming the Nation’s Healthcare identifies the current state and future challenges of healthcare in Australia. It is Australia’s unrivalled healthcare title. In conjunction with the annual title, this site offers news, analysis and opinion and acts as an interactive digital platform where readers and industry leaders can be informed, exchange ideas and comment on crucial healthcare issues.

Advertise with us

To find out more about advertising in Transforming the Nation’s Healthcare’s annual health and ageing magazine, please contact our National Sales Manager: David Sanis.