Long Working Hours Can Increase Deaths from Heart Disease and Stroke: WHO

Geneva: Long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from ischemic heart disease and stroke in 2016, a 29 per cent increase since 2000, according to new estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a first global analysis of the loss of life and health from these two diseases associated with working long hours, WHO and ILO estimated that in 2016, 398,000 people died from stroke and 347,000 from heart diseases attributable to having worked 55 or more hours per week.

The review found sufficient evidence that working at least 55 hours/week is associated with a higher risk of both ischemic heart disease and stroke, compared to working 35-40 hours a week. From 2000 to 2016, the numbers of deaths by heart disease from working long hours increased by 42 per cent, and those from stroke by 19 per cent.

Seventy-two per cent of deaths occurred among males. Middle-aged or older workers aged between 60-79 years who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years were particularly affected.

This is of particular concern given that the number of people working long hours globally has increased over time, to an estimated 479 million workers, or nine per cent of the global population, a trend that puts more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.

“Working long hours can lead to numerous mental, physical and social effects. Governments should take this issue very seriously,” said Vera Paquete-Perdigão, Director, Department of Governance and Tripartism, ILO. “The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation, as workers can be affected by additional psychosocial hazards arising from the uncertainty of the work situation and longer working hours.”

The spread of teleworking, new information and communication technologies, and an upsurge in flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs has increase the trend of working long hours. It has also led to the blurring of boundaries between working time and rest periods.

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