Study Conducted Shows Long Working Hours Increase Deaths from Heart Disease and Stroke

Study Conducted Shows Long Working Hours Increase Deaths from Heart Disease and Stroke

WHO and ILO share a study with statistics showing the dangers of working too much overtime.

Estimates shared by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization showed long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from a stroke or ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29 percent increase since 2000.

As a result of working 55 hours a week, WHO and ILO estimate that, in 2016, 398,000 people died from a stroke and 347,000 people died from heart disease. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42 percent and a stroke by 19 percent.

According to an article, this is established as the risk factor with working long hours now known to be responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related burden of the disease. The study conducted also concludes that the number of people working long hours is increasing and currently stands at nine percent of the total population all over the world.

COVID-19, of course, comes into play. The pandemic accelerates developments that contribute to the trend towards an increase in working time.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work,“ said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours. No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease. Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.”

According to WHO, governments, employers and workers can take the following actions to protect workers’ health:

• Governments can introduce, implement and enforce laws, regulations and policies that ban mandatory overtime

• Bipartite or collective bargaining agreements between employers and workers’ association can arrange working time to be more flexible and agreeing on a maximum number of working hours

• Employees could share working hours to ensure the number of hours worked don’t go above 55 per week

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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