Working excessive hours increases risk of stroke and heart attack

Research suggests nearly 750,000 deaths per year are caused by working 55 hours or more per week, as experts call on employers to introduce limits for remote staff.

Working excessive hours can dramatically increase the risk of dying from a stroke or heart disease, research has found, as experts warn more needs to be done to limit hours for staff working remotely during Covid.

Research published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization found working 55 or more hours per week increased the risk of dying from a stroke by 35 per cent, and increased the risk of death from ischemic heart disease by 17 per cent.

The two organisations estimated that, in 2016, 745,000 people died globally from strokes or heart disease caused by working 55 hours or more a week, a 29 per cent rise on the numbers in 2000.

The WHO warned that, because of the increase in remote working since the start of the pandemic, many people were working longer hours than before. 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.  Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.

There’s a reason why working time regulation in this country falls under health and safety, and there’s a 48-hour limit on the working week for most people.  However, the UK did have an opt out for some workers.

Businesses needed to monitor working hours and, where employees were working excessively long hours, “get to grips” with why this was the case. The underlying causes are likely to include unmanageable workloads – by far the greatest cause of stress – as well as unreasonable management expectations and work intensity more generally.

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