The researchers used data from 2,324 surveys and 1,742 datasets in an ambitious effort to look at differences in work hours across countries, as well as how these work hours may contribute to disease and death. Overall, they found that in 2016, 488 million people around the world met the study’s definition of long working hours — 55 or more hours per week — representing 8.9% of the global population. Compared with people who worked standard hours — 35 to 40 hours per week — those who worked long hours were significantly more likely to experience ischemic heart disease, stroke, or death, leading to an additional 745,194 deaths in a single year than would be expected based on normal working hours. These additional deaths linked to long working hours represent 3.7% of all deaths caused by ischemic heart disease, and 6.9% of all deaths linked to stroke. A higher burden of disease and death linked to long hours was seen in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia regions, as well as in men and in older people worldwide.
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Longer work hours offset by reduction in productive lifespan
As noted in a UPI article on the study, this report also shows the impact of cardiovascular disease on disability that prevents people from working as effectively as they otherwise would. Based on a measure called disability-adjusted life years — which takes into account how cardiovascular disease tends to reduce the number of productive years someone has more than it reduces their overall lifespan — the researchers found that longer working hours were linked to a total reduction of 23.3 million disability-adjusted life years in a single year. This reduction represents 5.3% of the total reduction in disability-adjusted life years caused by ischemic heart disease, and 9.3% of the total reduction in disability-adjusted life years caused by stroke. In other words, eliminating long working hours could potentially increase the number of productive working years in all workers by 23.3 million, each year — an average increase of 17.4 days per person working long hours. As this analysis shows, the extra productive output gained by having workers work longer than 55 hours per week is substantially offset by the reduction in productive lifespan caused by additional cardiovascular disease and death — and this doesn’t even account for the extra medical costs associated with cardiovascular disease.
“Exposure to long working hours…is common and causes large attributable burdens of ischemic heart disease and stroke,” the researchers concluded. “Protecting and promoting occupational and workers’ safety and health requires interventions to reduce hazardous long working hours.”
Want to learn more about protecting your heart? Read “Be Heart Smart: Know Your Numbers,” “Does Diabetes Hurt Your Heart?” “Fight Off Heart Disease With These Five Heart-Healthy Foods” and “Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease.”
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