Working more than 55 hours per week can cause heart problems

Working more than 55 hours per week can cause heart problems

People working long hours are at a higher risk of developing an irregular heartbeat compared to those with more standard work schedules, a study published last week in the European Heart Journal has found.

Researchers from UCL in London analyzed data taken over ten years from more than 85,000 men and women from across Europe, none of whom had heart problems at the start of the study. The results revealed that those people working 55 hours or more per week were around 40% more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, than those with a more typical full-time working week of 35–40 hours.

Professor Mika Kivimäki, who led the research, said “nine out of ten of the atrial fibrillation cases occurred in people who were free of pre-existing or concurrent cardiovascular disease. This suggests the increased risk is likely to reflect the effect of long working hours rather than the effect of any pre-existing or concurrent cardiovascular disease, but further research is needed to understand the mechanisms involved.”

The findings could explain the previously noted increase in the occurrence of stroke amongst people with long working hours, as atrial fibrillation is linked to health conditions including stroke, heart failure, and stroke-related dementia.

Writing for IZA World of Labor, Osea Giuntella emphasizes the connection between long or irregular work schedules and “negative health outcomes” as well as adverse impacts on “individual and family well-being.”

Giuntella suggests that “immigration may improve the working conditions of native workers by reducing the average number of hours worked and by reducing the physical intensity of blue-collar jobs.” Therefore, open and balanced immigration policies could have a positive impact on the job quality of native workers, while policies to improve immigrant workers’ access to health care and awareness about workplace risks could concurrently reduce negative effects for the immigrant population.

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