NEWS Mental Health News Long Working Hours Killed Nearly 1 Million People in a Year, WHO Study Reveals By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice, who has worked for three academic institutions across Canada. Her essay, “Inclusive Reproductive Justice,” was in the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Learn about our editorial process Published on June 09, 2021 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Nicholas Blackmer Fact checked by Nicholas Blackmer LinkedIn Nick Blackmer is a librarian, fact-checker, and researcher with more than 20 years’ experience in consumer-oriented health and wellness content. He keeps a DSM-5 on hand just in case. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print Getty Images Key Takeaways Over the course of 2016, 488 million people were exposed to long working hours of more than 55 hours per week.This was associated with 745,194 attributable deaths and 23.3 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) from ischemic heart disease and stroke, with 4.9% of all deaths and 6.9% of all DALYs stemming from longer working hours.Risks were higher among the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, as well as in men and older people. Work-life balance is often encouraged, but it can be hard to achieve. Systematic reviews from the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) found higher risks of ischemic heart disease and stroke among those working more than 55 hours weekly, as compared to working the standard 35 to 40 hours weekly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many have had to juggle work responsibilities at home, often alongside online schooling for their children, plus eldercare. This research may validate strong feelings regarding the challenges of longer work hours. The review showed higher risks for deaths and DALYs from ischemic heart disease and strokes among Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, as well as men and older people. This research highlights the need for greater international labor protections to prevent exploitation of workers, as well as smaller scale assessments of our own work-life balance, or lack thereof. Delving Into Global Health Research The WHO and ILO conducted systematic reviews of global health data for 2016 and found that 745,194 deaths and 23.3 million DALYs from ischemic heart disease and stroke were from exposure to long working hours. Regional exposure prevalence was largest for South-East Asia, at a rate of 11.7%, and lowest in Europe, with 3.5%. The Western Pacific region had the largest increase since 2000. Findings were based on observational studies, for which causation cannot be certain. But this research demonstrated that exposure to excess work hours every week increased the risk of death and poor health outcomes. Work Stress Can Increase Women's Risk of Heart Disease By 21% Long Work Hours Are Only One Factor Founder and president of the American Preventive Health Organization, Sandra El Hajj, MSc, N-MD, DHSc, says, "The WHO analyzed data from 194 countries and found that those who spend more than 55 hours working on a weekly basis are more likely to die of ischemia and stroke, but the impact on health highly depends on the workplace as well." Long work hours are only one factor that may be relevant. El Hajj cautions that the quality of work may be influenced by a variety of factors, such as the culture of the workplace and the stressors of the job. Sandra El Hajj, MSc, N-MD, DHSc While working long hours is not recommended for the long term, many employees also confront stress based on their personal relationships, family challenges, social issues, [and] financial strain. — Sandra El Hajj, MSc, N-MD, DHSc High Stress May Double Risk of Second Heart Attack in Younger Survivors Longer Work Hours Reduce Productivity Leadership consultant and clinical director of Lucid Clinical Services, Crystal Shelton, DSW, LCSW-C, says, "Studies that date all the way back to 1977 suggest that not only are longer hours harmful but there is considerable evidence that longer hours actually reduce productivity." Crystal Shelton, DSW, LCSW-C I think it is interesting to consider what would actually drive a shift towards a model that is more economic and effective by reducing burnout, turnover, and improving productivity. — Crystal Shelton, DSW, LCSW-C Findings of premature death and disability should be enough to prompt change, but given how capitalism tends to operate—especially in the U.S.—it may be more effective to highlight that long work hours do not serve productivity. Shelton says, "We are so stuck in the idea of the 40+ hour work week that even in the face of consistent, compelling evidence that it is non-optimal, we continue to remain firmly entrenched in the model." What This Means For You Research demonstrates that working more than 55 hours weekly can increase the risk of death and disability from ischemic heart disease and stroke. This highlights the need for policy shifts to better regulate work in a way that can improve worker health and even productivity in the process. The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page. 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Pega F, Náfrádi B, Momen NC, et al. Global, regional, and national burdens of ischemic heart disease and stroke attributable to exposure to long working hours for 194 countries, 2000–2016: A systematic analysis from the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury. Environ Int. 2021;154:106595.. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2021.106595 By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice. 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