New Test Measures Work Addiction


If you devote more than 50 hours per week to your job, you could be addicted to work. Work addiction is said to affect about 8 percent of the working population, and now researchers say a new test is useful in measuring this addiction.

Two tools have been used to evaluate work addiction, the WorkBAT (Workaholism Battery) and the WART (Work Addiction Risk Test). The new scale, called Dutch Work Addiction Scale (DUWAS), has been validated by experts in Spain, where it is believed that 8 percent of working individuals fit the definition of work addiction.

According to Mario Del Libano, the main author of the current study and a researcher at the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences of the Jaume I University in Spain, work addiction is characterized by two main behaviors, working excessively and working compulsively.

In the study, the authors used the 10-item DUWAS with 2,714 employees from the Netherlands and Spain. Results of the evaluation of DUWAS confirm the two-pronged structure of work addiction and relate them with perceived health and happiness, which in turn highlights the downside of work addiction.


The downside, according to previous research, includes an overall negative state of health, including physical complaints, high level of psychological distress, low job and family satisfaction, and low job performance. Del Libano notes that “People are only workaholics if, on top of working excessively, they work compulsively in order to reduce anxiety and the feelings of guilt that they get when they’re not working.”

Experts have defined work addiction as spending more than 50 hours per week working. Eight percent of the working population in Spain reportedly spends more than 12 hours per day working, while that figure jumps to 20 percent in Japan, according to research conducted in 2004 and 2006.

People who are addicted to work typically are unable to delegate, jeopardize their daily lives by focusing on their job, relate their self-worth and self-esteem to their work, and work outside of working hours. Some turn to drugs to help them work harder and longer and to fight their need for sleep.

Given today’s shrinking job markets and high unemployment, could job addiction be on the rise? Certainly some of the risk factors that lead to work addiction seem to fit the bill: financial pressures, fear of losing one’s job, and increased competition in the labor market. Other risk factors include absence of personal affection, a fear of demanding bosses or management, and high levels of personal work efficiency.

This new study from Spain may help experts assess work addiction along with other factors that have an impact on the psychosocial health of workers, “without the time taken to fill in the questionnaire having any impact on their motivation,” notes Del Libano.

Del Libano et al. Psicothema 2010 Feb; 22(1): 143-50
Shimazu A, Schaufeli WB. Industrial Health 2009 Oct; 47(5): 495-502
Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology