Long work hours increasing deaths from heart disease & strokes, pandemic could worsen it: WHO

Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from ischemic heart disease due to long work hours rose by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.

17 May, 2021 12:32 pm IST
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New Delhi: A new study published by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization has shown that 7,45,000 people worldwide died from stroke and ischemic heart disease due to long working hours in 2016 — a 29 per cent increase since 2000.

According to the first global analysis of the loss of life associated with working long hours published in Environment International Monday, as many as 398,000 people died due to stroke and 347,000 from ischemic heart disease as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week.

Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from the heart disease due to long work hours rose by 42 per cent, and from stroke by 19 per cent.

According to the study, males are more likely to die due to long hour shifts as it noted that 72 per cent of those who died were men, middle-aged or older workers, who had worked 55 hours or more, per week, between the ages of 45 and 74 years.

The study, which was conducted across 194 countries, concluded that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35 per cent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 per cent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.

Also read: It takes teamwork, to both get the job done and take a break from the job

Pandemic forcing people to work longer hours: WHO

Noting Covid-induced extensive working hours, the WHO said in the report, “The pandemic is accelerating developments that could feed the trend towards increased working time.”

The number of people working long hours is rising, and currently stands at 9 per cent of the total population, globally, the report added.

“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,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Work-related deaths are particularly prevalent in people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions. From the period between 2000 and 2016, the largest number of deaths regionally was estimated for South-East Asia with 158,987 deaths while the lowest number was for the Americas — 18,285 deaths.

In order to curb these premature deaths caused by long work hours, the study suggested governments and employers introduce, implement and enforce laws, regulations, and policies that ban mandatory overtime and ensure maximum limits on working time.

It also recommended employers and workers’ associations make working time more flexible, while at the same time agreeing on a maximum number of working hours and ensuring that the numbers of hours worked do not climb above 55 or more per week.

Also read: WFH as an alternative is fine, but we shouldn’t make it a permanent solution just yet


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