Today, the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization published in Environment International that long working hours led to 745 000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016.
Longer Working Hours Affecting Health
Unfortunately, the figure has seen a 29 percent increase since 2000.
During 2016, 398 000 people died from a stroke and 347 000 from heart disease as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week.
This was the result of the first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, according to WHO and ILO estimations.
If we see closely, between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.
Further, the work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men as 72% of deaths occurred among males as per the study.
These people were living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers.
Most of the deaths were recorded among people aging between 60-79 years, who worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years.
This long hour of working is now known to be responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related burden of disease.
This has been established as the risk factor with the largest occupational disease burden.
This shifts thinking towards a relatively new and more psychosocial occupational risk factor to human health.
Working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke.
Also, it has a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week, as per the study.
Another alarming revelation is that the number of people working long hours is increasing, currently standing at 9% of the total population globally.
It seems to put even more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.
COVID-19 Affecting Working Hours
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the trend is resulting in an increase in working time.
Warning about the alarming situation, Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, at the World Health Organization said, “Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard,”.
“It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death,” he added.
This time also seen trends like Private Employees Will Need To Work 12 Hours/Day; Salary Will Reduce (New Wage Rules)
During this time, the stress is at its high. But some of the private companies like Cognizant have increased working hours so does employee misery.
The Indian government is also not far behind as Govt allows a 4-day workweek for all private employees, but shift hours may become longer.
What To Do For Prevention?
As a solution, the following actions can be taken by Governments, employers and workers to protect workers’ health.
Governments should introduce, implement and enforce laws, regulations and policies which can ban mandatory overtime and ensure maximum limits on working time.
Another way is, bipartite or collective bargaining agreements between employers and workers’ associations, which will help in arranging working time which is more flexible, also agreeing on a maximum number of working hours.
Also, employees should keep a watch on working hours, so that they can ensure that the number of hours worked does not go above 55 or more per week.