The latest data by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization published in Environment International on Monday stated that long working hours led to 7,45,000 deaths from stroke and heart disease in 2016, a 29 percent increase since 2000.
In a first global analysis of deaths and health associated with working long hours, WHO and ILO data stated that 3,98,000 people, in 2016, died from a stroke and 3,47,000 from heart disease as a result of working at least 55 hours a week.
Between 2000 and 2016, deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42 percent, and from stroke by 19 percent.
This pressure is particularly significant in men (72 percent of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers, it stated.
The report added that most of the deaths were among people dying aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years.
Meanwhile, long working hours have been found 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, it added.
The study concluded that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35 percent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 percent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.
WHO and ILO further stated that Governments, employers and workers can take the following actions to protect workers’ health:
- governments can introduce, implement and enforce laws, regulations and policies that ban mandatory overtime and ensure maximum limits on working time;
- bipartite or collective bargaining agreements between employers and workers’ associations can arrange a working time to be more flexible, while at the same time agreeing on a maximum number of working hours;
- employees could share working hours to ensure that numbers of hours worked do not climb above 55 or more per week.