RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—America is a nation built by workaholics, spurred by hard workers like Benjamin Franklin who once said, "It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man." And it seems that preference for working long hours attitude is, if anything, growing stronger. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average workday in this country lasts 8.8 hours, which is about an hour longer than people were working per day in the late '80s. That extra work not only eats into your leisure time, it increases your chances of getting sick. But we're not the only country feeling the effects. A new study out of Britain, published in the European Heart Journal, suggests that working long overtime hours is damaging to the heart.
THE DETAILS: Researchers followed 6,014 British civil servants between the ages of 39 and 61 over the course of 11 years. At the start of the study, all completed a survey asking how long they worked (in hours per day) as well as a few other questions about their jobs, such as level of responsibility, what sort of demands were placed on them at work, and their salaries. Researchers also collected data on coronary heart disease risk factors such as family history, health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure, weight, sleeping patterns, and psychological profile.
At the end of the study, medical data revealed that there were 369 coronary events during the 11-year study. Just under half the sample reported working overtime; 10 percent reported working three to four hours of overtime a day. While there was no significant increase in risk for people working one or two hours of overtime, those people who worked three hours or more were one and a half times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than people who worked no overtime. The researchers found this to be the case even after they factored in other risk factors for heart disease that are typical among overtime workers: working in a stressful job, not getting enough sleep, eating a poor diet, smoking, and drinking, and other health risks like diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Published on: May 18, 2010
Updated on: May 19, 2010