Working more than 55 hours a week can actually cause death, World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed.
In a press statement released today, 17th May 2021, the organization suggested that working for lengthy hours can cause fatal stroke and eschemic heart diseases and recommended a maximum of 35 to 40 working hours per week.
“Long working hours led to 745 000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29 per cent increase since 2000, according to the latest estimates by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization (ILO) published in Environment International today,” reads part of the statement.
The statement further revealed that, in this first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, WHO and ILO estimate that, in 2016, 398 000 people died from stroke and 347 000 from heart disease as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week.
Further between 2000 and 2016, it was found that the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.
What worries these United Nations organizations even more is that the number of people working long hours is increasing, and currently stands at 9% of the total population globally, “This trend puts even more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.”
WHO’s Director-General; Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that, “The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work,“ and added that,. “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.”
In the same statement, Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health, suggested that extra long hours are a health hazard and need to be stopped. “Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard. It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death”.
WHO was in fact calling on governments to introduce, implement and enforce laws and regulations that will ban mandatory overtime and ensure maximum limits on working time.
They further suggested that through bipartite or collective bargaining agreements between employers and workers’ associations arrangements for working time to be more flexible, while at the same time agreeing on a maximum number of working hours can be done, “employees could share working hours to ensure that numbers of hours worked do not climb above 55 or more per week.”
WHO further explained that two systematic reviews and meta-analysis of the latest evidence were conducted for this study and that data from 37 studies on ischemic heart disease covering more than 768 000 participants and 22 studies on stroke covering more than 839 000 participants were synthesized. “The study covered global, regional and national levels, and was based on data from more than 2300 surveys collected in 154 countries from 1970-2018.”