Working 55+ hours a week a killer, says WHO

    MANILA, Philippines – Long working hours are taking hundreds of thousands of lives a year, according to an estimate made by the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO).

    Results of the first global study of death linked to longer working hours showed that 745,000 people died from heart disease and stroke in 2016 as a result of working more than 55 hours a week. Compared to those who worked at 35-40 hours per week, an individual’s risk of dying from stroke increases by 35% and from ischemic heart disease by 17% when working 55 hours or more in a week.

    Exhausted employee
    Exhausted employee. Photo from Canva Pro

    It also showed that 72% of the victims were men and were middle aged or older. Many victims were found to be living in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.

    “Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard,” said Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director for Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.

    “It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death,” she added.

    The study published in Environment International covered the years 2000 to 2016, a period which has not accounted the longer working hours brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts believe that the number of people working long hours is rising given that the pandemic has led to the increase of teleworking and gig economy.

    WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours. No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease. Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.”

    — Mini, The Summit Express

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