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Study: Commuting and after-hour work a health hazard

Long commutes and doing job-related work at home after hours are having an increasing impact on many Germans' mental health, a study says. The authors claim being flexible more often than not means becoming sick.

Germans whose work life balance is out of kilter are twice as likely to report in sick before long, a study by the country's Wido think tank of health insurers indicated on Thursday.

The research group claimed long daily commuting distances and taking work home at night, as two elements of modern working life, were having an increasingly negative effect on people's well-being and psychological health.

The study based on a poll of 2,000 employees found that 33.8 percent of workers in Germany regularly answered job-related calls or emails after hours, while 32.3 percent had to work extra hours, with 12 percent taking work from the office to do at home. 12.8 percent stated they were constantly forced to rearrange family-based activities to please their bosses.

All work and no play?

"You need to put limits on flexibility," said the lead author of the study, Helmut Schröder, adding that many workers were putting their well-being at risk.

Wido said that since relevant data became first available in 1994, psychological malaise-related sick leaves had risen by 120 percent across the country. The think tank added that such leaves lasted for 22.5 days on average, twice longer than those taken because of other ailments.

The findings fed into a public debate in Germany about whether hard-working Germans had been trading their industriousness for a significant loss in the quality of their lives.

hg/slk (AFP, dpa)