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Effect of working hours and precarious employment on depressive symptoms in South Korean employees: a longitudinal study
  1. Woorim Kim1,2,
  2. Eun-Cheol Park2,3,
  3. Tae-Hoon Lee1,2,
  4. Tae Hyun Kim2,4
  1. 1Department of Public Health, Graduate School, Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  2. 2Institute of Health Services Research, Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  3. 3Department of Preventive Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  4. 4Graduate School of Public Heath, Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  1. Correspondence to Professor Tae Hyun Kim, Graduate School of Public Health and Institute of Health Services Research, Yonsei University, 50 Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-752, Republic of Korea; thkim{at}


Objectives Long working hours and precarious employment are relatively common in South Korea. Since both can impact on mental health, this study examined their independent and combined effects on depressive symptoms of employees.

Methods Data were from the Korean Welfare Panel Study (KOWEPS), 2010–2013. A total of 2733 full-time employees without depressive symptoms were analysed. Hierarchical logistic regression models were used to investigate the effect of the number of working hours per week (eg, 35–40 hours, 41–52 hours, 53–68 hours, and >68 hours) and employment status (permanent vs precarious employment) on depressive symptoms, measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) 11 scale.

Results Compared with individuals working 35–40 hours/week, employees working above 68 hours (OR 1.57, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.34) had higher odds of depressive symptoms after full adjustment. Similarly, precarious employees (OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.75) showed worse mental health than permanent employees. In the combined effect model, employees in precarious employment who worked above 68 hours/week (OR, 2.03 95% CI 1.08 to 3.83) exhibited the highest odds of depressive symptoms compared with permanent employees working 35 to 40 hours/week.

Conclusions Long work hours and precarious employment status were associated with higher odds of depressive symptoms. The findings highlight the importance of monitoring and addressing the vulnerable groups of employees to reduce the mental health burden of economically active individuals.

  • working hours
  • precarious employment
  • depressive symptoms
  • East Asian societies

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