People who work longer hours during the week significantly increase their chances of having a stroke, UK researchers have found.
In the largest research project of its kind, researchers from University College London reviewed 25 studies involving more than 600,000 men and women from across Europe, the US, and Australia.
Looking at the data, they found that those working 55 hours or more per week had a 33 percent greater risk of stroke than those working a more balanced 35-40 hour work week. Working the longer set of hours also brings with it a 13 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease.
“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,” said Mika Kivimäki, professor of epidemiology, in an announcement of the results. “Health professionals should be aware that working long hours is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, and perhaps also coronary heart disease.”
The researchers found a clear pattern that the longer you work, the higher your risk for stroke and heart disease is - even when taking into account other known risk factors such as age, sex, and socioeconomic status, plus behaviour modifiers such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity. Working between 41 to 48 hours gives you a 10 percent higher risk of stroke, which jumps to a 27 percent increased risk if you work 49 to 54 hours.
The findings, published in The Lancet, could have major implications for the way we approach the concept of work and the working week.
Apart from the social welfare concerns, “burning the midnight oil” doesn’t make sense economically either.
Billions of dollars are spent in Australia alone to treat and manage cardiovascular disease.
Urban Janlert, a researcher from Umeå University in Sweden said as well as cutting down work hours, workplaces should also consider implementing a policy of work-time power naps, which have been shown to have health benefits.