Long work hours could raise stroke risk by a third

21 August 2015

Contrary to what the old adage, hard work never killed anyone suggests, a study has found that working long hours could have a deadly impact on health. Working longer hours raised the risk of suffering a stroke by a third, University College London (UCL) researchers have found.

Working just one extra hour a day upped the  chance of suffering a stroke over the next eight and a half years by 10 per cent while people who worked for 55 hours increased their risk by a third.

Those who spent longer hours at work were also more likely to develop heart disease. It was a matter of concern that heart surgeons who worked some of the longest hours in the UK, with the average consultant spending 61.5 hours at their post each week, the longest of any medical professional.

Sudden death following long working hours was often caused by stroke, due to long and repeated periods of stress, according to the study.

It was thought that stress of long hours could trigger biological changes in the body which, over time, could lead to deadly disease.

''Health professionals should be aware that working long hours is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, and perhaps also coronary heart disease,'' said Mika Kivimäki, professor of Epidemiology at University College London.

Professor Mika Kivimäki (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health) and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished individual-level data examining the effects of longer working hours on cardiovascular disease up to 20 August, 2014.

The researchers analysed data from studies involving 603,838 men and women from Europe, the US, and Australia who were followed for an average of 8.5 years. The analysis revealed a 13 per cent increased risk of incident coronary heart disease (a new diagnosis, hospitalisation, or death) in people who worked 55 hours or more per week as against those putting in a normal 35 to 40 hour week, even after considering risk factors including age, sex, and socioeconomic status.

The researchers further analysed data from 17 studies involving 528,908 men and women who were followed up for an average of 7.2 years. It was found that individuals who worked 55 hours or more a week had 1.3 times higher risk of stroke as against those working standard hours (Read more: Working long hours linked to higher risk of stroke).

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