HomeFitnessSpain’s late-night eating culture poses mental health risk, says minister

Spain’s late-night eating culture poses mental health risk, says minister


Related stories


Working past 10pm can pose a risk to mental health, Spain’s leftwing labour minister, Yolanda Díaz, has warned, as she fended off criticisms for describing the country’s custom of keeping restaurants open until late into the night as “madness”.

The debate over Spain’s vibrant nightlife – and the long working hours needed to sustain it – was thrust into the spotlight on Monday after Díaz characterised the country’s late-night restaurant culture as out of step with the rest of Europe.

“A country that has its restaurants open at one o’clock in the morning is not reasonable,” she said. “It is madness to continue extending opening hours until who knows what time.”

The opposition People’s party and business associations were swift to respond. Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the regional president of Madrid and a fierce critic of the central government, accused them of wanting people to be “bored and at home” in comments made on social media.

“Spain has the best nightlife in the world, with streets full of life and freedom. And that also provides employment,” continued Ayuso, whose political career was in part fuelled by her insistence on keeping bars and restaurants in Madrid open during the pandemic. “They want us to be puritans, materialists, socialists, without soul, without light and without restaurants because they feel like it,” she added.

Spain by Night, a federation representing leisure and entertainment groups, argued that the country’s nightlife was a tourist draw. “We reject any proposal that questions the Spanish lifestyle, which distinguishes and differentiates us in the tourism market,” it said in a statement.

At the heart of the row is the country’s long-running discussion over the gruelling Spanish work day, which can stretch past 11 hours, leaving many in the country tucking in to dinner as others in Europe head to bed.

In 2016 the People’s party promised to work to shorten the working day and improve work-life balance across the country. This week, however, the party’s politicians emerged as some of the most vociferous critics of Díaz’s comments.

When asked on Tuesday about the criticisms, Díaz said her sole aim was to protect the rights of workers.

Her party was “very much” in favour of leisure, said Díaz, who leads the leftist platform Sumar. “So much so that we want to reduce the working day … we want people to enjoy life,” she told Spanish broadcaster TVE.

“The nightlife that the regional president of Madrid boasts about forgets that shifts after 10pm are night shifts and, as such, carry certain risks such as mental health risks,” Díaz said, in what appeared to be a reference to the numerous studies that have linked shift work to an increased risk of poor mental health.

skip past newsletter promotion

Díaz added: “So let’s stop trivialising these matters that are very serious for the lives of working men and women in our country.”

She stressed that those who work past 10pm must be compensated and said that labour inspections to date had suggested there was room for improvement when it came to the labour conditions for restaurant workers in several Spanish cities.

Earlier this year Díaz launched negotiations with labour unions and business associations in an attempt to reduce the country’s legal work week from 40 to 37.5 hours without any loss of pay. The measure could affect up to 12 million workers in the country, according to the government.

“Cutting working hours not only means working less, but working better,” Díaz said on social media at the time.

- Never miss a story with notifications

- Gain full access to our premium content

- Browse free from up to 5 devices at once

Latest stories