Not all workaholics are in danger of developing serious health conditions. A new study found that it’s not in the length of work hours that contribute to stress but how engaged a person is in the work that matters.

So it’s not always bad to work long, and work hard, or even answer emails round-the-clock.

Study leader Professor Lieke ten Brummelhuis of Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business emphasized that the key is the level of engagement to work.

“We found that workaholism was positively related with RMS (RMS: high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels), but only when work engagement was low,” wrote the study authors about their findings.

The Simon Fraser University, in cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of North Carolina Charlotte, looked at employees working long hours to determine if the habit is truly detrimental to health.

Past studies noted the link between stressful, compulsive work and heart diseases and depression.

He said there were two dimensions of workaholics: those who worked excessively, and those who worked compulsively.

“The general assumption is that being a workaholic is bad for you and will lead to a heart attack. But we found that only the people who weren’t engaged in their work had higher risk of metabolic syndrome,” the professor was quoted by Global News.

Researchers investigated the workers’ - about 763 employees from a financial firm - health and well-being, level of enthusiasm and screened their metabolic syndrome biomarkers, which are direct precursors of cardiovascular diseases.

The results suggest that working long hours is not an indicator whether the worker would experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach upset. Rather, workaholics who reported above-average engagement with their work may not be at risk for such conditions compared to workers who reported below-average work engagement.

“Our findings underscore that not long hours per se, but rather a compulsive work mentality is associated with severe health risks, and only for employees who are not engaged at work,” the authors wrote.

However, it doesn’t mean that engaged workers are not immune to physical conditions such as sleep issues, fatigue, stomach upset and headaches.

The difference, however, is that these workers would notice, take action, evaluate their job and actively seek improvement, explained Professor Brummelhuis.

“Work engagement may actually protect workaholics from severe health risks,” concluded the authors. MIMS

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