New research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that over 700,000 people are dying every year as a result of long working hours.
In what is the first study of its kind, the global project involved analysing data from countries across the world. Researchers found that in 2016, 745,000 people died from working long hours. Rates were highest in South East Asia and the Western Pacific.
It is thought that working longer hours increases the risk of life-threatening conditions, including heart disease and stroke.
The study indicates that working more than 55 hours per week elevates the risk of dying from stroke by 35% and heart disease by 17% when compared to working 35-40 hours a week.
The World Health Organization has also raised concerns that death rates could increase due to the pandemic. Many people, particularly those who work in the healthcare sector, have been working longer hours than ever before due to increased demand for services and prolonged periods of intense pressure on departments. It is also thought that many workers have been clocking up longer hours as a result of remote working during lockdowns.
WHO technical officer, Frank Pega, suggested that working hours have increased by around 10% during lockdowns. This jump could prove significant when analysing figures in the years ahead.
The report suggested that working long hours accounts for approximately one-third of work-related diseases. This makes it the most significant occupational hazard.
Dr Fitzharris from Woodborough House is a big believer in taking regular breaks from work but has said sometimes the pressures of running your own business can have a detrimental effect on your health due to the long hours involved.
In light of the study, the WHO is now encouraging employers to consider the impact of working long hours and take steps to facilitate shorter working days. Some large businesses have already announced plans to give employees Friday afternoons off and this is a trend that may gather pace as businesses welcome workers back as lockdown restrictions ease.