The latest estimates from a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization claims long working hours are killing around 745,000 a year.
“Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard,” said Dr. Maria Neira, Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, at the World Health Organization. “It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death”.
In a first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, WHO and ILO estimate that, in 2016, 398,000 people died from stroke and 347,000 from heart disease as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.
This work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men (72% of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers. Most of the deaths recorded were among people dying aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years.
The study also revealed that when compared to working 35-40 hours a week, 55 or more hours per week on the job is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease.
An ILO & @WHO review estimated in 2016, 398,000 people died from stroke & 347,000 from heart diseases attributable to having worked 55 or more hours per week, with #COVID19 worsening the situation. A series of new measures have been proposed.
— International Labour Organization (@ilo) May 17, 2021
The estimated 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease caused by excessive working amounts to a 29 percent increase between 2000 to 2016.
Also, the number of people spending too much time at work has increased, and now stands at 9% of the global population.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “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.”