World Health Organization Study Shows Long Work Hours Kill 745K People a Year

The World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization published the first global study of death associated with longer working hours on Monday. One of the study’s most alarming findings was a 29 percent increase in long working hours leading to death from stroke and ischemic heart disease between 2000 and 2016.

The study claims that working longer hours contributed to over 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease. According to the WHO and ILO’s findings, working 55-plus hours per week is associated with an estimated 35 percent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 percent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.

Demographics affected most by these trends are middle-aged or older men living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions. Most of the recorded deaths were men between 60 and 79-years-old, who worked at least 55 hours per week while aged between 45 and 74-years-old.

WHO and ILO conclude that this work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men (72 percent of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers. Most of the deaths recorded were among people dying aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years.

“Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard,” said Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the World Health Organization. “It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death.”

WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, highlighted the study’s usefulness as the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way businesses work and manage employees’ hours.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work,” Dr. Adhanom said. “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.”

Source: Environment International

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