Working long hours poses an occupational health risk that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, the World Health Organization says.
People working 55 or more hours each week face an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to people following the widely accepted standard of working 35 to 40 hours in a week, the WHO says in a study that was published Monday in the journal Environment International.
"No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, calling on governments, businesses and workers to find ways to protect workers' health.
The global study, which the WHO calls the first of its kind, found that in 2016, 488 million people were exposed to the risks of working long hours.
In all, more than 745,000 people died that year from overwork that resulted in stroke and heart disease, according to the WHO.
"Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%," the WHO said as it announced the study, which it conducted with the International Labour Organization.
The study doesn't cover the past year, in which the COVID-19 pandemic thrust national economies into crisis and reshaped how millions of people work. But its authors note that overwork has been on the rise for years due to phenomena1
such as the gig economy and telework - and they say the pandemic will likely accelerate those trends.
"Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring2
the boundaries between home and work," Ghebreyesus said. "In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll3
end up working longer hours."