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Are longer working hours bad for your health?

24 Jun 2019

Researchers conclude that individuals who reported long working hours were 29pc more likely to suffer a stroke.

A study conducted on French workers has revealed that there is a significant association between long working hours and the risk of stroke.

The researchers, from Angers University and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, defined long hours as shifts exceeding 10 hours and taking place more than 50 days per year. The study analysed data from more than 143,500 adults in France, noting their age, sex, smoking habits and working hours. The study excluded subjects who had previously suffered strokes, as well as those who were working on a part-time basis.

By the time the study was completed, 42,542 (or almost a third) of the respondents had reported working long hours. 14,481 of those surveyed had reported working long hours for a duration of 10 years or more.

The researchers concluded that individuals who reported long working hours were 29pc more likely to suffer a stroke, while those who worked long hours for more than 10 years had a 45pc greater chance of experiencing a stroke in their lifetime.

The study’s lead author, Dr Alexis Descatha, told BBC News he was surprised to learn that people under the age of 50 were at particular risk.

“The association between 10 years of long work hours and stroke seemed stronger for people under the age of 50. This was unexpected. Further research is needed to explore this finding. As a clinician, I will advise my patients to work more efficiently and I plan to follow my own advice.”

This is not the first time that working hours have been linked to increased risk of stroke. In July 2012, a separate study revealed that irregular shift work was associated with increased risk of major vascular problems, such as heart attacks and strokes. Clinical pharmacologist and stroke prevention researcher Daniel Hackam said his 2012 study established that individuals working on night shifts had the steepest increase in risk for coronary events, regardless of their socioeconomic status or unhealthy behaviours.

While Descatha advised working more efficiently and for a shorter amount of time, there are a few other steps individuals can take to reduce their risk of stroke, including quitting smoking (which is the leading cause of stroke), reducing consumption of alcohol and sodium, and increasing physical activity. For obvious reasons, the latter may be difficult to achieve while working long hours.

Kelly Earley
By Kelly Earley

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic. She joined in June 2019 and covered start-ups, Big Tech and developments in consumer technology.

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