According to a study conducted in association with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that 745,000 died in 2016 from a heart-related disease due to working long hours every week.
Working less hours could save more lives
The research—a first of its kind—revealed that those most affected by lethal-labour induced by long hours were people living in South East Asia and the Western Pacific region. Data revealed that almost three quarters of those that died by way of working long hours were middle-aged to older men.
The study also found that working 55 hours or more every week was conducive to a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from a heart-related disease compared to those who worked anywhere between 35 and 40 hours weekly.
COVID to worsen the trend
Now, the WHO is concerned that the coronavirus pandemic might make matters worse. Since a large majority of the population has had to resort to working from home, experts now believe that workers are pushing themselves to the limit to make up for the loss in productivity.
What's more, since many have also lost their jobs due to the pandemic, they have found themselves having to take up arduous hours working online to make ends meet. WHO Technical officer Frank Pega explained:
We have some evidence that shows that when countries go into national lockdown, the number of hours worked increase by about 10%.
Researchers ultimately found that working long hours was estimated to be the cause for about a third of all work-related diseases—making it the number one cause for occupational disease burden.
They explained that working long hours led to poor health outcomes in two ways: through direct psychological responses to stress and by being conducive to adopting health-harming behaviours such as smoking and drinking more and sleeping and exercising less.