The Health Risks of Working Long Hours

Work has a major impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Working long hours at the office can affect more than just your social life. If you are the last one to leave the office or always working an extra shift, you may have benefits in the paycheck, but all those extra hours are also affecting your health.

Working longer doesn’t mean working better

Due to higher demands and continuous pressure, we spend most of our time working even during our personal time. While it’s easy to believe that working extra is better and people get more work done, that’s not the case. Overtime may not even lead to increased productivity, as long hours can actually decrease your productivity. Long hours affect your concentration and ability to focus, and reduce efficiency. Working less may appear counterproductive, but it is a helpful method of getting more work done.

For example, Germany has the largest economy in Europe; still, the average worker only spends 35.6 hours every week at work.

Length of work hours and your heart

Working long hours does not help your heart. In a study, in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, researchers found that working 61 to 70 hours a week increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 42%, and working 71 to 80 hours increased it by 63%. That is a significant finding as heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.

A separate study, published in The Lancet, found that people working long hours have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours.

Here are some other health risks associated with long working hours:

Increased fatigue

Fatigue is a common complaint among those working long hours over an extended period of time. Symptoms of fatigue from overtime include sleepiness, weariness, poor concentration, irritability, and increased susceptibility to illness. These symptoms significantly decrease productivity. Moreover, if you don’t stop and rest, fatigue will increase. When fatigue increases, accidents and injuries are also more likely to occur in the workplace.

Physical problems

People working long hours may frequently complain of lower back and neck pain. Repetitive work, when continued in awkward postures, increases the risk of causing musculoskeletal disorders that damage the body’s muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Avoid working extra hours to give your body enough time to recover and repair itself every day; else your muscles may just buckle under work pressure.

Mental health problems

Working too much can take a toll on your mental health. When you work long hours, you are doing it at the expense of not only your family and friends, but also your diet and exercise routine. Too much time spent on work and not enough spent on relaxation and fun can increase your risk of developing depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Your stress level might also increase as you struggle to handle a heavy workload with little free time.

Risk of obesity

A study at the University of Maryland School found that tough work schedules can contribute to obesity. Long working hours may reduce the time spent preparing home-cooked meals, exercising, and sleeping, which are the risk factors for obesity.

It is recommended to work for about 40 hours a week. Working fewer hours will give you more free time in the short term and reduce health risks to give you a better quality of life in the long term.