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Long work hours linked to 1 million deaths in one year

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in New York and around the country, and the same is true in just about every other developed nation. Rising heart attack and stroke rates around the world are often blamed on processed foods and sedentary lifestyles, but the increasing amount of time that people have to spend working just to earn enough to cover their bills could also be playing a role.

Working hours study

The link between long work schedules and increased rates of stroke and heart disease was explored in a 2021 study by the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization. After studying data from 194 countries, researchers discovered that almost half a billion people around the world work more than 55 hours per week. These grueling schedules were associated with 745,194 work-related deaths in 2016 alone, and researchers say that increased stroke and heart attack risks will shorten other lives by a combined 23.3 million years.

Constant stress

Some experts have criticized the WHO and ILO study for highlighting the symptoms of a problem without considering the cause. They point out that it could be the gnawing financial stress that workers live under and not the hours they work that is causing them to develop heart problems, and they point out that restrictions on work schedules would only make their problems worse. Others have criticized the researchers for not accounting for factors like environmental conditions and workplace safety laws.

Punishing work schedules are counterproductive

Excessively long work schedules are bad for both workers and employers. Stress and fatigue makes workers vulnerable to potentially deadly diseases, and the overtime they earn drives up overheads and may actually harm productivity. Employers that understand the importance of a healthy work-life balance have less employee turnover, lower health care costs and healthier and happier workers.


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