From a business standpoint, working long hours might seem like a good idea, but regularly working long hours is bad for your health. A new study from University College London (UCL) investigated the relationship between time spent at work and the risk for cardiovascular diseases, including stroke. The researchers found that working longer hours was linked to an increased risk of stroke, with individuals working 55 or more hours per week at a one-third greater risk.
The researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies about the effects of long work hours on cardiovascular disease. They split the data into two groups.
Data for the first group came from 25 studies of over 603,800 men and women from Australia, Europe, and the United States. These studies followed participants for an average of 8.5 years. The data demonstrated a 13 percent increase in the risk of coronary heart disease for individuals who worked 55 or more hours per week. The findings held even when controlling for age, sex, and socioeconomic status.
Data for the second group came from 17 studies of over 528,900 men and women. These studies followed participants for an average of 7.2 years. This analysis demonstrated a 1.3 times higher stroke risk in individuals who worked 55 or more hours per week when compared with people who worked 35 to 40 hours each week. The researchers controlled for health behaviors like smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity.
Working longer was associated with increased stroke risk even for individuals working fewer than 55 hours per week. Individuals who worked between 41 and 48 hours per week had a 10 percent increase in stroke risk. Individuals who worked between 49 and 54 hours per week had a 27 percent increase in stroke risk.
There is not a clear cause for the correlation between increased work hours and stroke risk. The researchers suggest that it may be because working more increases risk behaviors like physical inactivity and alcohol consumption.
“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. Health professionals should be aware that working long hours is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, and perhaps also coronary heart disease,” stated study leader Mika Kivimäki, Professor of Epidemiology at UCL.
This research is published in The Lancet.
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