The anti-depression group Beyond Blue says millions of Australian workers are putting their mental health at risk simply because they are not taking time out for lunch.
Of those who say they do make time for a proper lunch break, 72 per cent said they either cut it short, postpone it until mid-afternoon or simply eat at their desks.
Beyond Blue CEO Kate Carnell says it is time to reclaim the lunchbreak.
“Now we know from research that it’s really important to have regular breaks during the day, to get up, to move around,” she said.
“If you don’t both your physical and your mental health suffers and interestingly so does your productivity.”
She says eating at a desk can cause greater problems than simply having crumbs fall in the keyboard.
“Eating at your desk means you’re not getting the activity you need, you’re not getting up, you’re not getting circulation moving and it’s found that inactivity, sitting in one place for prolonged periods of time, is really not good for either your physical or your mental health.”
But Ms Carnell says many of those surveyed did not blame strict bosses for the loss of lunch.
“Many of them are saying it’s not because the boss tells them they can’t,” she said.
“They’ve just got so much work to do they work through lunch.”
And the survey results suggest workers are not simply skipping their lunch break in order to head home earlier.
“They’re not taking lunch and they’re working longer hours, so it really shows you that Australians aren’t a culture that has lots of breaks and are bludgers shall we say,” Ms Carnell said.
“Australians are working longer and longer hours, more and more overtime. A lot of that is unpaid overtime.
“The problems with that is it really isn’t good for either your physical or your mental health, and that’s the reason or one of the reasons that we’re seeing increased levels of stress leave, plus stress-related workers compensation topped $10 billion in Australia.”
Beyond Blue is calling for Australians to work towards creating a healthier office environment.
“We’ve all got to… be good role models and that means that in our workplaces we’ve got to encourage regular breaks, we’ve got to encourage activity, we’ve got to encourage workplaces that focus on reducing stress and increasing productivity,” Ms Carnell said.
This article first appeared on ABC Online on 25 October, 2013.