Study Suggests Long Working Hours Increase Risk of Stroke
We all know that long working hours can be stressful and tiring, but new research reveals that they might also have a serious impact on your health. Findings published in The Lancet medical journal suggest that putting in too many hours at the office may increase your risk of stroke.
The study involved an analysis of the health records of more than 500,000 people across Europe, the US and Australia. Scientists looked at the results of 17 previous studies, conducted over an average of seven years. They found that people working 41 to 48 hours a week were 10% more likely to suffer from a stroke than those who worked a typical 35 to 40-hour week. Those who worked 55 or more hours were 33% more likely to have a stroke.
The data also showed a link between long working hours and coronary heart disease. People who worked for more than 55 hours a week had a 13% increased risk of the condition.
The researchers concluded: “Employees who work long hours have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours; the association with coronary heart disease is weaker. These findings suggest that more attention should be paid to the management of vascular risk factors in individuals who work long hours.”
The authors suggest that long hours are associated with an increased risk of stroke because they cause repetitive triggering of the stress response, and also often involve long periods of physical inactivity, which can have a significant negative impact on general health. However, there is not yet evidence to fully explain the link between long working hours and stroke.
The study does, however, seem to show just how harmful working too much can be. The authors warn that people should avoid overworking themselves for the sake of their health.
Lead author Professor Mika Kivimaki, from University College London, says: “The pooling of all available studies on this topic allowed us to investigate the association between working hours and cardiovascular disease risk with greater precision than has previously been possible. Health professionals should be aware that working long hours is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, and perhaps also coronary heart disease.”
Other experts say that those who work long hours simply need to make the effort to generally live more healthily, and that this can be done without reducing working hours, which isn’t an option for many people. It has also been stressed that employers need to do more to make office environments healthier places for their employees to work.
Dr Tim Chico, consultant cardiologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, says: “Most of us could reduce the amount of time we spend sitting down, increase our physical activity and improve our diet while working, and this might be more important the more time we spend at work. We should all consider how the working environment could be altered to promote healthy behaviours that will reduce strokes, irrespective of how long we work.”