The impact of long working hours on health has been of major concern since the 1980s. This was the time when the death of a Japanese design engineer from a brain hemorrhage due to working 2,600 hours per year, sparked a huge debate about this controversial issue.
Now, a global study, first of its kind by the WHO and the International Labour organization shows that overworking is a significant contributor to early death worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying due to working long hours.
Researchers analyzed several studies conducted in 196 countries. They observed that working 55 hours or more a week is associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke. And a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease compared with a 35-40 hour working week.
The study also showed that 745,000 people died from a stroke and heart disease associated with long working hours in 2016, an increase of nearly 30% from 2000.
“Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard,” said Maria Neira, director of the WHO’s Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. What we want to do with this information is promote more action, more protection of workers,” she said.
COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded the situation
Pandemic has significantly changed the way people work. Work-life balance has worsened due to blurring boundaries between home and work.
The current COVID-19 crisis is putting businesses under unprecedented levels of pressure. Businesses are forced to scale down or shut down. People who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours to save jobs.