Working long hours has been unavoidable for many during the coronavirus pandemic, as stay-at-home orders and safety restrictions have taken away whatever line there was between work and home.
But maybe this will get some people to back away from the computer: a study by the World Health Organization estimates 745,000 people around the world died in 2016 as a result of working 55 hours a week or more.
The deaths of hundreds of thousands of overworked people came through a stroke or heart disease.
They estimate people who work 55 hours a week or more have a 35% higher risk of stroke and 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to those who work 35-40 hours a week.
“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,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General in a release about the study.
In the study, published Monday in the journal Environment International, most of the deaths were recorded among people between 60 and 79 who had worked at least 55 hours a week when they were between 45 and 74 years old.
The study looked at data from 2016, prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Men were the most affected and accounted for 72% of the deaths.
WHO researchers say long hours can lead to death in two main ways: psychological stress and the body’s stress reactions.
The psychological stress of working long hours can generate reactions in the cardiovascular system and create changes in vascular tissue.
Secondly, how the body handles the stress of working long hours can contribute to a host of unhealthy habits, including smoking, drinking to excess, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and impaired sleep. All of those are considered risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
“It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death,” said Dr. Maria Neira, Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, at the World Health Organization.