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April 6, 2011

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Heart-disease link to long hours a "wake-up call"

People who work more than 11 hours a day are at a significantly higher risk of heart disease, compared with those who work more standard hours, a new study concludes.

Researchers from University College London found that working more than 11 hours places a person at a 67-per-cent higher risk of developing heart disease, compared with those who work a typical 7-8 hours a day.

The authors suggest that information on working hours could be useful to GPs when calculating a patient’s risk of heart disease, alongside other health measures, such as blood pressure, diabetes and smoking habits.

Led by Professor Mika Kivimäki, the research used data from the Whitehall II study, which has monitored the health and well-being of more than 10,000 civil-service workers since 1985. The UCL research involved 7095 participants, comprising men and women who worked full time and were free of heart disease, or angina at the start of the study.

Researchers collected information on heart-risk factors, such as age, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking habits, and diabetes. They also asked participants how many hours they worked on an average week-day.

Monitoring individuals over an 11-year period, the researchers collected information about heart health from medical screenings every five years, hospital data, and health records.

They found that including working hours in the normal assessment measures of risk of heart disease improved the ability of doctors to predict the risk of heart disease by 5 per cent.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Kivimäki said: “We have shown that working long days is associated with a remarkable increase in risk of heart disease.

“Considering that including a measurement of working hours in a GP interview is so simple and useful, our research presents a strong case that it should become standard practice. This new information should help improve decisions regarding medication for heart disease. It could also be a wake-up call for people who overwork themselves, especially if they already have other risk factors.”

Published in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, the study was funded by the Medical Research Council, the BUPA Foundation, the British Heart Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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