Working Overtime Increases Risk of Heart Disease
A new study from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has shown that working overtime can significantly increase the risk of developing heart disease. The study coincides with nearly three dozen other surveys that have shown unusual work hours can lead to a number of health problems.
The Institute of Occupational Health observed a dozen independent studies. The research observed more than 20,000 people all over the world. Each study reported that working overtime increased the risk of developing heart disease by 40-80%. The research indicated that the risk was less pronounced when they closely monitored workers’ hours, because some workers may have over-reported the amount of overtime they work.
The research was coordinated by Dr. Marianna Virtanen, an epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational HEalth. Virtanen said the research can’t specify with any certainty why working overtime can increase the risk of heart disease. Prevailing theories suggest that people who work longer hours are at an increased level of stress, which could in turn increase their risk of developing heart problems.
However, other factors may come into play as well. Employees who work longer hours have been shown to make poorer dietary decisions. They may also be less likely to exercise. Additional studies may suggest that taking the necessary steps to improve their overall health could minimize the risk of heart disease among employees working overtime.
The study may help policy makers understand the steps they need to take to protect the health of workers throughout the country. Some lawmakers are already working on legislation to prohibit many employers from mandating overtime. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick recently signed a bill that would prevent hospitals from forcing nurses to work extra hours.
At first glance, the findings were compelling. However, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service argues that there are a number of inconsistencies with the study. The biggest problem they found is that the various studies used different definitions of a standard workweek. Some studies used a 40 hour work week as the base. However, others didn’t classify employees as working overtime unless they were working more than 65 hours a week.
The NHS said that it isn’t feasible to compare these studies because they all use such different guidelines. Additionally, the NHS said that the comparisons aren’t reliable because they came from centers all over the world. Countries have different labor laws and working conditions, so they said each experts would be better to understand how overtime affects workers in their own countries instead.
[box type="important"]Finally, the NHS and other health societies caution that the study only shows a correlation. Additional research will be needed to confirm the association between working overtime and the risk of developing heart disease. However, the study does show that workers may be advised to reduce their workload if their employers allow them to do so.[/box]