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May 18, 2010

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Long hours linked to higher risk of heart problems

Middle-aged employees who routinely work overtime are at an increased risk of coronary heart disease, researchers have discovered.

A total of 6014 people participated in the Whitehall II study – a cohort study of members of the civil service, which has been ongoing for 25 years. Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University College London, among other institutions, followed the participants for a period of 11 years, during which there were 369 cases of fatal coronary heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks, and definite diagnoses of angina.

Ten per cent of the participants said they normally worked up to four hours extra a day, 36 per cent worked up to two extra hours, while 54 per cent did not usually work overtime. When adjusting for social and demographic factors the researchers found that working three to four hours of overtime a day raised the risk of heart disease by 60 per cent, compared with those who did no overtime. Working one or two extra hours did not seem to have any effect. Taking confounding risk factors, such as weight, smoking and cholesterol into account did not alter this outcome.

Commenting on the findings, IOSH said the link between working excessive hours and ill health is plain to see. The Institution’s policy and technical director, Richard Jones, added: “It is important that bosses and workers take a proactive approach to managing working time. Managers need to monitor how many hours are being worked and make sure hours and workload are within safe and reasonable limits. And workers should feel able to raise any concerns they may have about their own particular circumstances. Managing all of this well can lead to benefits for workers’ health and for business, too.”

The researchers have indicated that further work is needed to determine the reasons for the link between overtime and heart disease, and to examine whether reducing overtime would alter the risk.

The British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, agreed that clarity is needed on the reasons for the increased risk. Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the BHF, said: “The researchers suggest a number of reasons – ‘hidden’ high blood pressure, reduced sleeping hours and psychological stress. These may affect the mechanisms that cause heart disease, but it could simply be that working long hours means we’ve less time to look after ourselves.

“Until researchers understand how our working lives can affect the risk to our heart health there are simple ways to look after your heart health at work, like taking a brisk walk at lunch, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or by swapping that biscuit for a piece of fruit.”

The full report on the findings was published in the European Heart Journal –

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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13 years ago

aye until another survey opr expert, using the term loosely comes along and says work is good for you eggs are good/bad for you 21 units or is it 56 units is good for you
blah blah blah