Human Resources



How working long hours is hitting your health

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On some level, we all know we are harming our body by sitting all day in front of a computer, but for most Hong Kongers, it is not something they can avoid even if it is a matter of life and death

According to a new medical study published in UK-based medical journal Lancet, people who work 55 hours or more per week have a 33% greater risk of stroke, and a 13% greater risk of coronary heart disease, than those who work 35 to 40 hours per week.

The researchers had followed 600,000 individuals in Australia, the United States, and Europe for 8.5 years for the study.

The findings confirmed the assumptions of many that a long-hours culture, in which people work from early in the morning until well into the evening, with work also intruding into weekends, is potentially harmful to health.

ALSO READ: Long working hours aren’t translating into productivity

“Sudden death from overwork is often caused by stroke and is believed to result from a repetitive triggering of the stress response,” stated the medical journal.

“Behavioural mechanisms, such as physical inactivity, might also link long working hours and stroke, a hypothesis supported by evidence of an increased risk of incident stroke in individuals who sit for long periods at work.”

These findings come as a wake-up call for people in Hong Kong, were in 2014, men averaged 47 hours a week while women worked for 44 hours a week, according to the Census and Statistics Department.

The study also found that the longer the working week, the higher was the risk of stroke. People working between 41 and 48 hours  a week had a 10% higher risk of stroke, while for those working 49 to 54 hours, the risk jumped by 27% compared to people who work 35 to 40 hours each week.

Dr Tim Chico, reader in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield told The Guardian that the study in no way proved long working hours could cause stroke or heart disease.

“It is almost certainly impossible to prove whether there is a direct link as this would require thousands of people to be randomly allocated to work more or less hours and followed up for years to see if this changes the risk of stroke, while keeping all other behaviours the same between groups,” he said.

He suggested people to increase their physical activity and improve their diet, since cutting down on working hours would be difficult or impossible for most people.

“We should all consider how the working environment could be altered to promote healthy behaviour that will reduce strokes, irrespective of how long we work,” he said.

ALSO READ: How long hours in the office can affect fertility rates

Image: Shutterstock

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