About Work Addiction

There has been considerable progress in the conceptualisation and research on work addiction in recent years. It is defined as a behavioral addiction with symptoms similar to substance addictions, such as withdrawal, tolerance, mood modification, or conflicts. Two main factors make it one of the most significant challenges in organisational psychology and public health in the 21 st century. 

Work addiction is one of the most prevalent addictive behaviors

First, studies of work addiction show that it is more prevalent than most other addictive behaviours. Depending on the country, about 6 to 20% of workers could be affected, and such differences in prevalence are likely, to some extent, to be related to macro-level factors such as labour market regulations, stability of employment, and social care systems. 

Work addiction causes substantial individual, social and economic harm

Second, work addiction is strictly related to high workload, chronic and substantial occupational stress, and burnout. Moreover, it considerably affects family dysfunction and generally problematic social functioning. On top of that, it tends to be related to decreased productivity. In other words, it has sizeable negative consequences for the individuals affected, people close to them, and recipients of their work. Currently, there are sufficient empirical and theoretical premises to take a closer look at the association between work addiction and the global burden of the disease. Its high prevalence, coupled with considerable and widespread negative effects, makes it likely to cause substantial harm for a population, affecting medical and social care systems.

Occupational stress and high workload are being increasingly recognized as significant contributors to the diseases and disorders constituting major components of the global burden of disease. A more detailed definition of burn-out was recently included by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which reflects a growing acknowledgment of the role of professional work in mental health.

An undue preoccupation with productivity to the exclusion of pleasure and interpersonal relationships is a clinically recognized problem, a symptom of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). However, more and more evidence suggests that uncontrollable overworking is related to an addictive disorder, so-called “work addiction” or “workaholism,” resulting in reduced productivity and considerable harm to the individual and other people in their environment. OCPD seems to be one of its major risk factors. Nevertheless, the available studies suggest that work addiction is a separate clinical entity and addictive disorder with its etiology, symptomatology, epidemiology, and course. Recognizing it as such has profound consequences for its social perception, identification, prevention, and treatment. The available data suggest that for some individuals, study addiction is an early form of work addiction.

Thus far, there has been limited effort to investigate the role of work addiction in the consequences of occupational stress and high workload. Currently, our knowledge about micro-, meso-, and macro-level risk factors of work addiction and interactions between them is limited. This area of research and clinical knowledge suffered from a lack of systematic research and integrated efforts of experts from around the world. Our project aims to overcome these limitations and provide high-quality knowledge about work addiction.

In this section, you will find an overview of work addiction based on the most up-to-date scientific data.