22 February 2019
Overwork and stress can lead to various problems, including depression. Photo: HKEJ
Overwork and stress can lead to various problems, including depression. Photo: HKEJ

Work stress and depression

Given the fast-paced business world, work-life balance is a difficult thing to achieve for many Hong Kong people.

Spending long hours in the office may help a person earn praise from the bosses and boost his or her chances for a pay rise or promotion, but such lifestyle could take a heavy toll on the worker.

Overwork could mean excessive stress, which in turn could lead to mental illnesses such as depression.

Depression is a common illness, with internal as well as external factors leading up to it.

Possible internal factors include genetic inheritance, personality traits and family upbringing, while external factors could be pressure in life and work, financial problems, relationship difficulties, etc.

Those with long work hours are also more prone to emotional problems.

It is estimated that around 10 percent of the population in Hong Kong might have various levels of depressive disorders. The number of patients is expected to rise, according to medical professionals.

First onset of depression usually occurs at the age between 35 and 45.

If you notice a family member or friend having a persistent low mood that lasts two weeks or more, with symptoms like lack of motivation and appetite, difficulty in falling asleep, feeling fatigued or lacking in energy, or working with low efficiency with weaker concentration level or poor memory, you should advise the person to seek medical consultation.

According to clinical research findings, professionals, people from the financial sector and property management and those whose jobs involve diversified tasks are more vulnerable to mental illness.

Professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants not only have stressful jobs, their work hours are so long that they don’t have enough time to relax.

People in the financial sector have to stay tuned to the global markets almost 24/7, which could affect the sleep schedules.

As for property managers, they keep receiving and handling complaints from angry residents from time to time. In the long run, the stress could take a toll on their health.

Elsewhere, some teachers too face high pressure at work.

Among the depression patients that I know, there is a senior property manager who shoulders a lot of responsibilities in her company.

She is so focused on her work that she has given out even her private cellphone number to business clients. The executive was always in a stand-by mode, taking orders from her supervisors and clients more than 20 hours each day.

After a year of insomnia, persistent low mood with bipolar mood swings, and deteriorating relationship with her family members, she finally went to see a doctor where she was diagnosed with depression.

With medication and counseling sessions, her condition has improved a lot. She has learnt to achieve better balance between work and life by practicing division of labor.

I agree that pay rise and promotion are important goals for any worker. However, people should bear in mind that with bigger title and better pay, they will have to face greater responsibilities.

Taking too much stress could cause all sorts of problems, including depression.

For those who are already suffering the ill-effects, medications together with counseling sessions is the way to go.

Overall, it’s important to come up with ways to relieve work stress and learning the art of “let-go”. Don’t take unnecessary responsibilities that require constant over-work.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 25.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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