Research predicts increase in work addicts over the coming years

© 2012 Elhuyar Fundazioa

The percentage of persons addicted to work could go from the current rate of 4.6% to 11.8% of workers in 2015, according to a study undertaken by researchers at the Universitat Politècnica of València, the Universitat Jaume I of Castelló and the University of the Basque Country.

The percentage of addicts to work is currently 4.6% in Spain and, within a little more than three years – December 2015 –, this figure could rise to 11.8% of workers. This is the result of research carried out at the Universitat Politècnica of València, the Universitat Jaume I of Castelló and the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). By applying a mathematical model for difference equations, they analysed possible trends in this addiction for the coming years, with various perspectives for the Spanish economy.

From the WONT research team at the Universitat Jaume I, specialising in psychosocial prevention in the workplace, they drew up a questionnaire with the aim of measuring and classifying the population according to their possible level of addiction. “Most of us spend a large part of our time working. There are even those who become addicted, spending excessive amounts of time and energy working and doing so very intensively and compulsively. Others work hard because it makes them happy and not because they feel it is something they have to do – these are workers “engaged” in their work. Through this questionnaire we discern the level of addiction and to what extent employees enjoy working”, explained Mario del Líbano, researcher at the Universitat Jaume I. In total, about 1,200 workers between the ages of 16 and 69 in the Valencia Autonomous Community and that of the Basque Country answered the questionnaire.

Based on the results of the survey, and in order to construct the mathematical model, the researchers from the IMM Institute of the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) divided the population into three categories: rational workers (with 40 hours or less a week); superworkers (more than 40 hours) and addicts (determined by their level of compulsion and based on the responses provided in the survey). “Resolving the equations of our model, we can predict the prevalence of addiction to work in our country”, explained Lucas Jódar, Director of the Institute of Multidisciplinary Mathematics at the UPV. Participating together with Mr Jódar were Elena de la Poza, Elvira Alberola and Paloma Merello from the Politècnica de València.

In their work, the researchers from the UPV, the UJI and the UPV/EHU took into account four possible economic scenarios: the first of these based on the predictions of the OECD, “auguring growth in unemployment until 2013”; a second, more optimist, one, “taking on board the rate of unemployment for the coming year at 2010 levels”; the third based on the analyses of the FUNCAS, “which forecasts a slow recovery from 2014 on”; and a last, the most pessimist, “marked by an ongoing rise in the numbers of unemployed in Spain from 2012 until 2015”.

“For the construction of the mathematical model we also took into account factors that might have an influence on the addiction to work, such as situations of emotional stress, which we have quantified based on the rate of matrimonial break-ups, and social contagion”, researchers from the IMM at the Politécnica de València pointed out.

Based on the application of the model, the research pointed to an increase of work addicts within all four scenarios, the highest rise predicted being in the “optimist” one – at 11.88%. In the OECD forecast, the rate is 11.72%; and that of FUNCAS is 11.65%; in the worst scenario the rise is 11.55%.

“Drawn from the research results is the need to put into place measures to avoid contagion of what is considered to be one of the social psychopathologies of this century, as well as the necessity to promote a business culture which enables enhancing the capacity of workers to overcome and deal with contexts of emotional pain, traumas or fear of losing employment”, concluded the authors.

Their work was presented within the framework of Mathematical Modelling in Engineering & Human Behaviour 2012”, seminars organised by the University Institute for Multidisciplinary Mathematics at the UPV.

Reprinted by the gracious permission of Basque Research.



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