July 01, 2019

Long working hours linked to increased chance of stroke

Long working hours linked to increased chance of stroke

According to a new French study, regularly working long days of ten hours or more increases the risk of having a stroke. The study had more than 143,000 participants and concluded that those who work 10 or more hours a day for at least 50 days per year have a 29% higher risk of stroke. Australia, in particular, was ranked in the bottom third of OECD countries when it comes to working long hours. 13% of the working-age population (people aged 15–64 as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics) clocks up 50 hours or more a week in paid work.

IZA World of Labor contributor Peter Dolton has written on the topic of work hours and the fact that they have been falling in developed countries but in his article, he also recognizes that “[n]ot all workers are experiencing fewer working hours; for example, some highly educated workers are now working more hours.” He notes: “In some countries people work 70% more hours per year, on average, than in other countries. Much of this variation is due to differences in the prevalence of part-time work and patterns of female labor market participation.”

Dolton adds: “There is constant pressure to reduce working hours on grounds of work−life balance considerations. Debate is ongoing as to whether and how this can be achieved through technological change, without causing a regressive redistribution of income away from less skilled workers.”

The effects of regular long work hours on workers’ health are many and wide-ranging. Other research suggests that there is a link between poor mental health and lower-quality sleep, and long work hours. The latter also increase likelihood of smoking, excessive drinking, and weight gain. British medical journal The Lancet has discovered similar effects after analysing more than 600,000 people. Workers clocking 40–55 hours per week have a higher risk of stroke compared to those working 35–40 hours per week.

Despite the many and varied negative health effects of long work hours, change may be slow in coming about.

Read more on working hours: past, present, and future.