WHO has a big warning for people who work 55 hours or more per week

Brittany A. Roston - May 17, 2021, 2:18pm CDT
WHO has a big warning for people who work 55 hours or more per week

If you work long hours every week, you may be increasing your risk of dying from a major cardiovascular event, according to the World Health Organization. The number of people who have died from stroke and heart disease linked to long working hours has increased substantially from 2000 to 2016, according to a newly published study from WHO and the International Labour Organization.

According to WHO, this study is the first global analysis of its kind to link working long hours with death from ischemic heart disease and stroke. The number of people suffering death and disease resulting from long working hours — defined as 55 hours or more per week — increased substantially from 2000 to 2016, the study found.

In 2016, the number of deaths linked to long working hours clocked in at 745,000, including 398,000 from stroke and 347,000 from heart disease. This was an overall 29-percent increase in deaths when compared to those from 2000, with heart disease deaths linked to long working hours increasing 42-percent compared to stroke at 19-percent.

The World Health Organization notes that working long hours has become more common, putting more people at risk of early death. WHO raises some concerns that the pandemic may have caused a large shift in the way people work, but not in their favor, with Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus stating:

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work. Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours. No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease. Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.

WHO ultimately calls working 55 hours or more a week a ‘serious health hazard,’ but there is hope. The organization notes that there are steps that can be taken to help ensure employees don’t need to work long hours, including having governments implement and enforce laws that put limits on how many hours can be worked, as well as collective bargaining agreements between employees and employers to offer more flexibility and restrict mandatory overtime.


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