Workaholism Facts

Everything you need to know about workaholism.

Workaholism statistics and facts

Research indicates that workaholism affects between 27% and 30% of the general population today.

In popular culture, "workaholism" is a buzzword often used to describe devotion to work in a positive light — by defining themselves as workaholics, people often think they are showcasing their passion for their jobs.

But, we should resist equaling workaholism with having a great work ethic, working hard, being dedicated to work, loving one's job, or occasionally working long hours to beat a deadline.

Workaholism, or work addiction, is actually a serious problem that can lead to career burnout, or overworking oneself to serious health issues — even death.

To help shed light on the difference between healthy and unhealthy work habits, here's a rundown of the most important, workaholism-related research, facts, and statistics. We'll also talk about what workaholism is, what it's NOT, how you can recognize it, as well as how you can address it.



Workaholism Basics

Workaholism basics

What is workaholism?

The term "workaholism" was first coined in 1971, by American psychologist Wayne E. Oates in his book Confessions of a Workaholic: The Facts About Work Addiction . According to his definition of workaholism, it is "the compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly".

In line with that, a workaholic is usually referred to as someone "who works compulsively" or is a "work addict". However, there has been little empirical research (and, a consensus is yet to be made) about what exactly it would mean to call someone a workaholic — so, there is still no definitive workaholics definition.

Even so, researchers have aimed to further explain the term. According to Scott, Moore, & Miceli (1997), there are three main characteristics of workaholics:

  1. They spend a lot of time on work activities.
  2. They are preoccupied with work, even outside working hours.
  3. They work more than what is expected of them to finish their tasks.

In the years since Oates, other researchers have gone to define workaholism as:

In recent times, the "addiction" definition has been given the most credence, especially in the work of Andreassen (2013) and Sussman (2012).

According to Taris et al. (2008), there are two main components to workaholism:

  1. The behavioral component, which manifests as working excessively hard — includes working long hours per day or week.
  2. The psychological component, which manifests as being obsessed with work — includes the inability to detach yourself from work and working compulsively.
Workaholism basics infographic

What are the main causes of workaholism?

According to Malissa Clark, an expert on workaholism dedicated to studying this type of addiction, there are 4 leading causes we associate with workaholism:

  1. The motivational causes: Workaholics don't work because they enjoy the work — they work because they feel like they should.
  2. The cognitive causes: Workaholics find it difficult to stop thinking about work, even when they're not working.
  3. The emotional causes: Workaholics feel anxious and guilty when not working.
  4. The behavioral causes: Workaholics have a tendency to work more than their companies expect from them.

What workaholism is NOT?

You may think that you are a workaholic — but, perhaps you are just a hard worker with a good work ethic and work engagement who occasionally works long hours. There are differences, and here's what they are.

Being a workaholic vs working hard

According to a BBC article , the main difference between workaholics and people who "merely" work hard is busyness .

Namely, people who work hard are focused on a certain priority they need to finish before a deadline, so they put in extra hours and effort. Afterward, they go back to their normal work routine.

But, workaholics work hard because they need to feel busy — unless they are constantly thinking about, worrying about, and focused on work, they feel guilty and insecure.

According to Julian Gordon, the author of the LinkedIn post High Performers vs. Workaholics: 7 Subtle Differences , this insecurity stems from the workaholics themselves, who fail to understand:

So, these workaholics try to compensate for their perceived lack of value and importance by being busy. Gordon stresses that such workers "believe that the busier they are, the more important they must be."

Non-workaholics stop working hard once they reach success on their goals. But, for workaholics, enough is never truly enough — the goal is never fully reached and they never feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with objective success.

Being a workaholic vs having a good work ethic

Having a good work ethic means that you attach certain values to your conduct at work, including:

None of the listed traits are specifically connected with being a workaholic — and can all be achieved without succumbing to a compulsion to work excessively.

Being a workaholic vs working long hours

Workaholics tend to work long hours. However, working long hours doesn't necessarily mean that you're a workaholic.

According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review , the difference between being a workaholic and working long hours is the ability to switch off after work .

Namely, an employee can work 60+ hours per week, and still not be a workaholic, due to having the ability to stop worrying about work after work hours.

On the other hand, an employee can work a little more than 40 hours per week, and be a workaholic due to the inability to stop thinking about work long after work hours.

The same HBR article showcased a study from 2010 that covered 763 employees from the Dutch branch of an international financial consulting firm.

The aim of the study was to compare the respondents' workaholic tendencies, work skills, motivation, and work hours, with their risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The study found that long work hours were not directly related to these health issues — but, workaholic tendencies were.

Moreover, workaholics also reported sleep problems, emotional exhaustion, much more than people who were merely working long hours.

Learn more: How to cope with working long hours | How to manage efficiently working 80+ hours a week

Being a workaholic vs having high work engagement

Some people may appear like they have workaholic tendencies, because they simply love their job, and love thinking about what they need to work on, and how they will approach their future work. But, there is a distinction between people who constantly worry about work and those who often think about their work because they enjoy it — especially in terms of health.

Namely, the same HBR study mentioned earlier also graded its 763 employees on their engagement at work — high engagement indicated they enjoyed their work, while low engagement indicated they didn't.

The results showed that non-engaged workaholics had a 4.2% higher risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease than engaged workaholics. Not a big difference, but still, an existing one — high-engaged workaholics are at a lower risk of health issues than low-engaged workaholics.

Moreover, other research (Stefano & Gaudiini , 2019) also indicates a clear distinction between workaholism and work engagement — by describing the former as a "pathology" and the latter as a "healthy form of heavy work investment".


Recognizing Workaholics

Recognizing workaholics

What are the traits of workaholics?

According to a study published in t he New York Post that surveyed 2,000 employed Americans, here are the 10 telling signs of a workaholic:

What are workaholic symptoms?

Norwegian researchers from the Department of Psychological Science at the University of Bergen have developed The Bergen Work Addiction Scale to help determine whether someone is a workaholic . To develop this scale, the researchers studied 16,426 working adults in Norway, based on 6 main criteria:

  1. Salience — the phenomenon of being preoccupied with work.
  2. Mood modification — the phenomenon of using work as a way to alleviate emotional stress.
  3. Tolerance — the ability to gradually work longer hours over a continued period with the same mood-modifying effects.
  4. Withdrawal — the feeling of physical and emotional distress if unable to work.
  5. Conflict — the phenomenon of sacrificing relationships and social obligations because of work.
  6. Relapse — the phenomenon of suffering negative consequences as a result of excessive work.

The Bergen Work Addiction Scale consists of 7 declarative sentences you can answer with: Never / Rarely / Sometimes / Often / Always

The final tally of the answers will help you determine whether you are a workaholic. And here are the statements:

  1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.
  4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
  5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  6. You prioritize work over hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise.
  7. You work so much it has negatively influenced your health.

If you've answered "often" or "always" to at least 4 out of the 7 listed points, you have a work addiction.

What do workaholics sacrifice for work?

An additional way to recognize workaholism is to think about what you are willing to sacrifice for work.

One U.S.A Today poll that covered the time period between 1987 and 2008, has identified what people sacrifice in order to stay on top of their work, and maintain the feeling of busyness.

As much as 56% of respondents cited "sleep" as the number one activity they sacrifice on the shrine of workaholism. Recreation (52%) and hobbies (51%) followed closely, as the activities that took the second and third place. Socialization is also affected: as much as 44% of respondents declared they sacrifice time with friends, while 30% of respondents declared they sacrifice family time.

The correlation between workaholism and psychological disorders

According to the same study where a group of psychology researchers surveyed 16,246 working adults in Norway (which was the same study used to develop the Bergen Work Addiction Scale in the first place), there is a link between workaholism and certain psychological disorders. Namely, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, and even depression:

However, the same study did not clarify whether it was the psychiatric symptoms that caused workaholism, or whether it was workaholism that caused the psychiatric symptoms.

The correlation between workaholism and personality traits

One of the more current topics among researchers of workaholism is whether there is a link between workaholic tendencies and certain personality traits.

The Big Five personality traits (also known as the five-factor model and the OCEAN model) grades people on their:

Several papers (Burke, Matthiesen & Pallesen, 2006; Andreassen, Hetland & Pallesen, 2010; Clark, Lelchook & Taylor, 2010) have discussed the correlation between these personality traits and workaholism. They have indicated that:

In general, these links were found to be relatively weak.

However, various researchers have indicated that people who are more extroverted, conscientious, and neurotic, as well as people with personality type A (described as ambitious, status-conscious, impatient, anxious, and rigidly organized), are more likely to develop workaholic tendencies.

What are the types of workaholics?

Since the term "workaholism" was first introduced in 1971, researchers have defined several types of workaholics, which may partially overlap with each other. As previously mentioned, there is no universally acclaimed definition of workaholics, implying that there is no universally acclaimed workaholic typology — but, if you identify with the traits of some of the listed workaholic types, it may be time for concern:

Definitions of workaholic types in the 1970s

Oates (1971) recognizes 4 types of workaholics:

  1. The dyed-in-the-wool workaholics — they are perfectionists who take work seriously and only aim for the highest performance standards.
  2. The converted workaholics — they set limits to their work hours and aim to have and enjoy free time.
  3. The situational workaholics — they don't have a typical workaholic personality but aim to achieve high standards in certain situations.
  4. The pseudo or escapist workaholics — they mimic the behavior of workaholics in order to gain or maintain a high position at work, or they use work as a way to escape their unhappy home life.

Definitions of workaholic types in the 1980s

According to Rohrlich (1981), there are 13 types of workaholics, and they range from the sensible workaholic to the absurd workaholic.

Naughton (1987) recognizes 2 types of workaholics:

  1. The job-involved workaholics — they are high in work commitment and low in work compulsion.
  2. The compulsive workaholics — they are high in both work commitment and compulsion.

Definitions of workaholic types in the 1990s

Fassel (1990) recognizes 4 types of workaholics:

  1. The compulsive workers — they are driven to work all the time and represent the universal stereotypical view of workaholics often depicted in media.
  2. The binge workers — they work in binges, rather than continuously.
  3. The closet workers — they hide work so they won't be discovered working when they're not supposed to.
  4. The work anorexics — they avoid work through procrastination but feel a rush of adrenaline when they finish a project at the last minute.

Scott, Moore, & Miceli (1997) recognize 3 types of workaholics:

  1. The compulsive-dependant workaholics — they exhibit symptoms of the obsessive-compulsive personality.
  2. The perfectionist workaholics — they are preoccupied with rules and details and pursue work and productivity at the cost of social activities leisure time.
  3. The achievement-oriented workaholics — they strive toward success and achievement in moderately difficult tasks and are thus viewed positively.

Definitions of workaholic types in the 2000s

Robinson (2000) recognizes 4 types of workaholics:

  1. The relentless workaholics — they aim to work all the time and believe work is more important than anything else in life. Viewed as similar to Oates' dyed-in-the-wool workaholics.
  2. The procrastinating workaholics — they procrastinate until the last minute and then work frantically to finish a task.
  3. The high stimulus-seeking workaholics — they are easily bored and seek excitement in the form of tight work schedules, peppered with multiple (preferably new) parallel projects.
  4. The bureaupathic workaholics — they tend to prolong tasks and create additional work.

Definitions of workaholic types in the 2010s

Glicken (2010) recognizes 6 types of workaholics:

  1. The loner workaholics — they work hard and want to be left alone while doing so.
  2. The frightened workaholics — they are afraid of losing their jobs, so they constantly worry about not completing tasks on time, or with the expected quality.
  3. The burned-out workaholics — they carry on with their work, even if they don't find any satisfaction at their jobs, due to the lack of other interests.
  4. The incompetent workaholics — they work hard, but can't seem to get much done due to a lack of competence for the work they were assigned to do.
  5. The dictatorial workaholics — they push others to work harder than necessary, rather than taking on this habit themselves.
  6. The manic-depressive workaholics — they may work hard and reach incredible results during their manic highs, and then slump to inactivity during their manic lows.

Robinson (2013) suggested another typology after his first from 2000., where he recognizes 4 types of workaholics:

  1. The relentless workaholics — the same type as the one he suggested in his previous work.
  2. The bulimic workaholics — they aim to perform their work perfectly, or not do it at all.
  3. The savoring workaholics — they are consumed by their attention to detail.
  4. The attention-deficit workaholics — they start multiple projects, but get bored, and need to move on to new challenges.

The Effects Of Workaholism

The effects of workaholism

The effects of workaholism on work, family, and individual outcomes

According to a science brief published on The American Psychological Association , here's what effect workaholism has on your work, family, and individual outcomes:

The effect on work outcomes

The effect on family outcomes

The effect on individual outcomes

As this data shows, workaholism makes the personal aspects of life decline, while the professional aspects of life remain mostly unaffected. Namely, although career prospects are likely to rise, work performance and professional efficiency, other likely important motivations for compulsive work, are not likely to improve.

Learn more: Career burnout and its effect on health Workaholism effects infographic

Other effects of workaholism on family life

Workaholic tendencies can have an effect both on the spouse and children of the workaholic in question.

According to Bryan Robinson, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the originator of the 2000 and 2013 workaholic types division, the divorce rate for marriages where at least one spouse is a workaholic is 40% higher .

Moreover, the Growing Up in Australia study conducted by The Australian National University (ANU) and La Trobe University has observed ~2,500 working couples and their children over a span of 10 years. Their aim was to understand how improper work-life balance affects the parents' commitment to their children.

The study found that 6 out of 10 couples would struggle to manage their work and family commitments. Also, 1 in 7 couples experienced longer periods when one of the parents was not managing these family commitments well.

The study further showed that this effect was strongest when the parents worked in demanding, inflexible jobs with low security and long hours. As a result of this work-life conflict, the parents would feel unhappy, tired, stressed, and cranky, and the children's mental health would be at risk.

Moreover, the previously mentioned U.S.A. Today poll has found one striking difference in meal habits between 1987 and 2008 that is likely to affect family life. Namely, in 1987, 50% of respondents claimed they ate at least one meal with their families on a daily basis. In contrast, this number has plummeted to 20% of respondents by 2008 — indicating another decline in the chances for socializing with the family.

Other effects of workaholism on health and eating habits

We already touched upon the correlation between workaholism and health in the section that dealt with the difference between workaholism and working long hours. Further research supports the notion that workaholic tendencies can have a strong effect on one's health — but also on eating habits.

According to a study by Chan, Ngan, & Wong (2019 ) that covered the time period between 1998 and 2018, people who work 11 hours per day (such as workaholics) have a 67% bigger chance of suffering from coronary disease than people who work 8 hours per day.

According to research by Dembe, Ericson, Delbos, and Banks (2005), people who work 12 or more hours per day are 37% more prone to job-related injuries.

A Balducci, Avanzi & Fraccaroli (2018) study has indicated that there is a link between workaholism and health problems such as high systolic blood pressure and higher levels of mental distress (usually occurring one year later).

The CEO of the Energy Project, Tony Schwartz, conducted a poll on Huffington Post , in which he surveyed 1,200 self-admitted workaholics about their experiences at the workplace:

This data is in line with the research conducted by  the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), which had 75% of self-admitted workaholics state they eat lunch at their desks at least 3 times per week.

As a result of such poor eating habits, workaholics are likely to suffer additional health issues — if the situation escalates to a starvation diet, one of the possible outcomes can even be death.


Workaholism Around The World

Workaholism around the world

Workaholism in the United States

Are Americans overworked?

Well, according to the previously mentioned article in the New York Post, workaholism is a self-identified trait of many modern-day Americans:

48% of Americans consider themselves to be workaholics. But, only 28% of them claim they work so hard because of financial necessity. Moreover, an average American works 4 hours per week for free and spends an additional 4 hours per week just thinking about work.

However, a paper by Grifiths, Lisha, and Sussman (2011) indicates that only about 10% of American workers have a true addiction to work — giving rise to the theory that people may be confused about what workaholism really is.

Workaholism in the UK

According to a UK-based survey that covered 2,000 employees, as much as 40% say they cannot switch off after work — and, as much as one third of respondents believe they would be labeled as a workaholic by others.

Emails also prove to be a big challenge for UK employees with workaholic tendencies — this common type of recurring tasks prompts:

In addition, 16% of respondents say they can't eat without checking their emails (with 1 in 5 having health problems over such diligent work).

To cap off the workaholism-related situation in the UK, as much as 97% of people surveyed take additional work home and fail to leave work on time.

Workaholism in Norway

One nation-wide survey in Norway showed that the prevalence of workaholism is 8.3% among the employees in this country. Here is a rundown of the most striking findings of the Norway-based survey:

Workaholism in Japan

Japan is famous for its work ethic, but also notorious for its workaholic tendencies. Karoshi , or "death by overwork" is a common occurrence in Japan, and is tied to heart attacks, strokes, starvation diets, and even suicides. According to the National Defence Council for Victims of Karoshi, the estimated number of Japanese workers who overwork themselves to death is 10,000 per year .

The cause for these figures is likely tied to the real length of the Japanese work week, and the tendencies in their work culture. Namely, they often clock about 80 hours of overtime per month. Moreover, one study has found that as much as  63 % of Japanese employees feel guilty about taking annual leave.

In recent times, however, employers have started implementing measures to get their employees to stop working past work hours. As reported by The Wall Street Journal , these measures include curfews, spot calls, and loud music at the official end of the workday — one company in Tokyo even opts to play the "Rocky" theme tune as a sign that it's time to go home.

Other initiatives include assigning "embarrassment" capes for people who work overtime, as well as campaigns to introduce Premium Fridays (the permission to leave at 3 p.m. on the last Friday of the month). Sadly, figures show that only 4% of employees actually left work at the agreed time on the first Premium Friday, indicating that the abolishment of the workaholic culture in Japan is still a long way to go.

Learn more: Overworking: how it impacts our lives and how to avoid it

Countries with the highest share of people working long hours

We already talked about how working long hours differs from being a workaholic. But, although people who work long hours are not necessarily workaholics, people who are workaholics do tend to work long hours.

One Rasmussen Reports survey highlights the 5 countries where people are most likely to work longer hours, indicating that their employees may have a higher chance of developing workaholism.

Turkey takes first place, with 46.13% of respondents stating they work long hours. Japan takes second place, with a share of 31.7%. Mexico follows closely, with 28.63% of respondents stating they work long hours. South Korea takes fourth place, with a share of 27.66%. Israel caps off the list, with 17.58% of respondents stating they work long hours.

Global workaholism vs hourly productivity

So, why do workaholics tend to work longer hours?

Sometimes, it's actually because they (or their organizations) think it makes them more productive.

But, a 2015 research from  the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicates that the number of hours worked is not linked to productivity, at least not in terms of GDP per hour worked:

Country GDP per hour worked Average hours worked per week
Luxemburg $93.4 29
Ireland $87.3 33.5
Norway $81.3 27.3
Belgium $69.7 29.8
United States $68.3 33.6
Denmark $67.6 27.2
France $65.6 28.2
Germany $65.5 26.3
Netherlands $65.4 27.4
Switzerland $64.2 30.6
Country Average hours worked per week GDP per hour worked
Mexico 41.2 $20.3
Korea 40.7 $31.9
Greece 39.1 $35.3
Chile 38.2 $25.9
Russia 38 $25.1
Latvia 36.7 $28.3
Israel 36.3 $40.3
Iceland 36.1 $45.1
Portugal 35.9 $35.4
Lithuania 35.8 $32.6

Luxemburg ($93.4), Ireland ($87.3), and Norway ($81.3) take the first three spots in terms of the highest GDP per hour worked. Coincidently, none of the top ten countries with the highest GDP per hour worked can be found in the list of the top ten countries with the highest average hours worked per week.

Moreover, although Mexico has the highest number of hours worked per week (41.2), coincidentally, they also have the lowest GDP per hour worked ($20.3).

Mexico's low numbers in terms of labor productivity may not be tied just to their comparatively longer working hours — namely, Mexico is estimated to be one of the countries with the highest stress levels, owing to ~85% of corporations being labeled as having toxic work environments.

Workaholics are also less likely to be productive overall — the stress-induced health issues and other problems that come with workaholic tendencies are more likely to make productivity plummet over time, rather than help increase it.

Learn more: 25 ways to increase productivity | How to be productive working from home | Personal productivity guide Workaholism around world infographic

Global workaholism and vacations

Considering that one of the workaholic tendencies includes working past the expected number of hours per day and thinking about work even when not working, it's no surprise that workaholics often struggle while on vacations. Some of them aim to put their minds at ease by working while vacationing or by simply leaving their days off unused.

According to Expedia's 2018 Vacation Deprivation Study , here are the countries that have the most number of vacation days they don't use before the end of the year:

Japan emerges as the country where employees are the least likely to take time off — namely, although they receive 20 days off per year, they only use up half of that time.

In Italy , employees leave 7 days of vacation unused — but, they do receive 28 days off per year, to begin with.

In Australia , employees leave 6 days unused — out of 20 days of annual time off they usually receive.

India, but also New Zealand follow closely, with 5 days unused, out of the 20 days received.

The United States cap off the list, with 4 days unused, out of the 14 days they receive on average.

To add to these numbers, one Ernst & Young study indicated that as much as 34% of American workers don't take a single day off per year. And, as much as 56% of the workers that DO take days off, still touch base with work while on vacation.

When it comes to the situation in the UK, one Glassdoor survey indicated that as much as 40% of employees take only half of the days they are entitled to as annual time off. What's more that's only the maximum amount, implying that a portion of the said 40% take even less than that. Also, 23% of UK employees who do take time off for vacations still check their emails, while 15% simply continue working in order to stay on track with their work obligations and targets.

Moreover, as mentioned previously, a share of 63% of Japanese employees simply feel guilty about taking annual leave.

One TripAdvisor survey interested in people's vacation habits has indicated that about 50% of people polled in India work during vacations. Moreover, the global results are not much better — namely, the global average of people working during vacations is 44.19%.


Addressing Workaholism

Addressing workaholism

How to address workaholism?

If you believe that you are a workaholic, you can approach this problem the same way other people with addictions would — by going through an anonymous multi-step program. One such solution is to join Workaholics Anonymous , an organization whose only prerequisite for future members is the desire to stop working compulsively. They offer meetings, literature, and annual conferences, so you can connect with and seek support from people experiencing the same struggles as you.

For other addiction treatment options, you can visit the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers .

Healthline, a reputable website and provider of medical information, also advises further consultations with an expert. Namely, considering that work addiction can be associated with certain mental health conditions (such as depression), it's best that you also consult with a professional, to assess your current mental health.

Other additional tactics you can consider include:

Learn more: 58 Time Management Tips For Work | 50+ Working From Home Tips


Workaholism is a prevalent issue among working individuals, occasionally falsely depicted in popular media. So, don't aim to be a workaholic, just because you've read about a multi-talented business magnate or media personality who claims to owe success to a 24/7 work routine.

Instead, aim to be productive, and organize your work in such a way that you finish more in less time, but also with less stress. Aim to have a good work ethic.

Work long hours when needed, but don't overdo it at a cost of your health. Love your job, and be passionate about it, but also leave time for other important things in life. Strive for a better work/life balance.

Seek professional advice to achieve this, if you find that you already have workaholic tendencies.

As a result, you'll be more efficient at your job, but also, healthier and happier in your private life.