Researchers have reported that workers who spend more than 55 hours a week on work are at a far greater risk of suffering heart disease and stroke. At a time when the ordinary American is working over 40 hours a week, sometimes in more than two jobs and under constant pressure, the results show just why employers need to take employee health more seriously.
The new research is by far the largest report on the link between long working hours and stroke and cardiovascular disease. The research was conducted on 600,000 individuals in the U.S., Europe and Australia.
Previously, long working hours had been linked through research to heart disease, but never to stroke.
Dr. Urban Janlert, a professor at Umea university, said of the study link to strokes, “That’s surprising. Earlier studies have pointed to heart attacks as a risk of long working hours, but not stroke.”
Mika Kivimaki, university College professor of epidemiology, with his colleagues, combined the results of various studies on long working hours to look for things that may skew the results while including unpublished information into their analysis.
Seventeen studies on stroke on 528, 908 adults were tracked for over 7.2 years. In the period, 1,722 fatal and nonfatal strokes were recorded. After controlling factors such as drinking, smoking and cholesterol, the findings revealed that the workers who worked for more than 55 hours a week faced a one third greater risk of getting a stroke than those who worked for 35 to 40 hours a week.
The results thrust into the limelight the increasing health risks being faced by most Americans. According to Dr. Janlert, “Long working hours are not a negligible occurrence.”
Dr. Kivimaki also added that the results were the same regardless of differing demographics. He said, “we found no differences between men and women, or between older people and younger ones, or those with higher or lower socioeconomic status.”
According to the former president of the American Heart Association, Dr. Ralph Sacco, the consistency in results only makes the findings more convincing.
The research on coronary heart disease included the survey of 683,838 workers. The results revealed that after 8.5 years, 4768 had been diagnosed with heart disease. The researchers did account for age, sex and socioeconomic status.
The link between long working hours and stroke is still baffling doctors worldwide.
With the mounting evidence on the health risks attributed to long working hours, it remains to be seen whether the new information will discourage workers from seeking new sources of revenue despite harsh economic times.