Long working hours are increasing deaths from heart disease and stroke — a new study from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) — documents that long working hours (>55 hours a week) contributed to 745,000 deaths in 2016; roughly half due to stroke and the rest to heart disease. This is an increase in risk of 35% over working 35-40 hours. The study did not look at psychosocial risk factors such as job strain and Effort-Reward Imbalance (ERI) which are also important in causing heart disease.

In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week. According to the ILO, workers in the U.S. work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.

“With working long hours now known to be responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related burden of disease, it is established as the risk factor with the largest occupational disease burden. This shifts thinking towards a relatively new and more psychosocial occupational risk factor to human health.”

Interestingly, death from overwork was first described in Japan in the late 1970s with the term karoshi. It has taken the WHO/ILO more than 40 years to conclude that overwork is a worldwide phenomenon taking years of life away from working people.

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