Millions of employees in New York and around the country work overtime each week to earn more money, but putting in those extra hours could be damaging their health. That was the conclusion researchers from the World Health Organization reached in 2021 after studying health and work data from 194 countries. The researchers linked working more than 55 hours per week with almost a million deaths each year. They also believe that increased heart disease and stroke risks associated with working long hours shave more than 20 million years off workers’ lives every year.
A worldwide problem
According to the WHO report, almost half a billion workers around the world work more than 55 hours per week, and many of them are in the United States. The results of a 2021 Gallup survey reveal that more than 40% of American workers spend at least 45 hours on the clock each week. Workweeks are also grueling in South-East Asia, but only 3.5% of European workers have jobs that require them to work more than 55 hours each week.
Long workweeks cause a great deal of stress, which is why heart attacks and strokes are more common among workers that put in long hours. Long hours lead to work-related illnesses and deaths, and they also lower productivity. Researches noticed the link between longer hours and lower productivity in 1977, and several subsequent studies have come to the same conclusion.
Long hours are a sign of financial difficulty
Workers are putting in more overtime because their paychecks do not go as far as they once did. Wages have stagnated in the United States in recent decades, and soaring inflation is reducing workers’ spending power even further. Studies like the one conducted by the WHO suggest American workers who put in long hours are risking their lives to make ends meet, and that is unlikely to change unless workplace safeguards that are common in Europe are introduced in the United States.