'Germs are loiterers. They can live and thrive on all kinds of surfaces, including - and especially - desks in the workplace.'

London - Workers who spend long hours at the office are more than twice as likely to develop depression as those who do a standard day, according to a study.

British researchers found those who spend more than 11 hours a day – or 55 hours a week – at their desk faced a higher risk.

The most susceptible were women, younger people and those on a low pay grade with moderate alcohol consumption.

More than 2 000 civil servants with various jobs, salaries and working hours were recruited in the early 1990s for the study of employees aged 35 to 55.

When they were followed up six years later, scientists at two London universities and colleagues in Finland found a “robust association” between overtime and depression – even allowing for other factors such as unhealthy lifestyles, marital status and a degree of job stress.

Of those questioned for the study, which is one of the most detailed on working hours and health in Britain, 66 had experienced a “major depressive episode” during the follow-up period, a rate of 3.1 percent.

Those who worked 11 or more hours a day were two-and-a-half times as likely to have one than those who worked seven or eight hours.

Although many of those who work long hours are men on high pay grades with challenging jobs, their levels of depression were relatively low.

The researchers said it seemed some who earned more could be “buffered” from depression by having a job they enjoyed, or higher levels of “social support” such as staff who could do things for them.

But women in high-earning jobs were more likely to suffer depression, because they may have been more likely to have multiple responsibilities outside work, the researchers said.

Younger people – perhaps coping with trying to excel in their career, while facing family and financial demands – also experienced higher levels of depression.

Co-author Professor Stephen Stansfeld, of Queen Mary University of London, said: “People working very long hours may be working less efficiently, and need to be thinking about their health and stress it may be causing in their home life as well.”

The study was published in PLoS ONE. – Daily Mail