Long Working Hours Are A Killer: WHO Study
Working long hours is taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people a year in an increasing trend that may further rise owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization stated on Monday.
According to the first global study of the loss of life associated with longer working hours, the Environment International paper journal’s paper revealed that 745,000 people lost their lives from stroke and heart disease associated with long working hours in 2016. That was an almost 30% rise from 2000.
"Working 55 hours or over per week is a serious threat to health," stated Maria Neira, director of the WHO's Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.
"We want to promote more action and more protection of workers by this information," she said.
According to the joint study, produced by the WHO and the International Labour Organization, most victims (72%) were men and were middle-aged or older. Mostly, the deaths took place after much time in life, sometimes decades later.
It was also revealed by the study that people living in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region which includes China, Japan, and Australia, were the most affected.
As per the overall study based on data from 194 countries, working 55 hours or more a week is linked with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease as compared to a 35-40 hour working week.
Although the was study was based on the period 2000-2016, and the COVID-19 pandemic was not part of it, but according to WHO officials, the rise in remote working and the global economic slowdown due to coronavirus emergency may have increased the risks.
"The pandemic is increasing developments that could result in a higher trend towards increased working time," stated WHO, estimating that a minimum of 9% of people works long hours.
WHO staff, which includes its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, mention that they have been working long hours during the pandemic and Neira stated that the U.N. agency would try to improve its policy considering the study.
According to WHO technical officer Frank Pega, restricting hours would be beneficial for employers in increasing worker productivity.