Working long hours isn’t good for you. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, it can decrease your life expectancy.
In 2016, 745,000 deaths from stroke and heart disease were linked to long working hours — and data from the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t yet available.
“It’s probably the level of stress the work is related to,” said Dr. Markus Meyer, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “Many people have to work these long hours because they are not at a socio-economical level. They have to work these long hours to make ends meet.”
Meyer is also a cardiologist. His research and his teaching focus on heart failure.
“I tend to see patients who have high blood pressure and risk factors we can often modify with medications, and in many ways, we tend to be lifestyle coaches,” Meyer said.
The study, he says, highlights the fact that everyone needs to find some work-life balance.
“They were clearly saying the trend is towards more work hours per week, and the pandemic certainly made it worse, and the hope is there is some reversal in the post-pandemic era,” Meyer said.
The pandemic blurred the lines between work and home life for many people, and the heightened stress led to other unhealthy habits.
“There was so much stress during COVID-19 that collectively we all gained weight, including me,” Meyer said.
The study revealed that working 55 hours or more per week brings a 35% increase in the risk of stroke and a 17% increase in the risk of death from heart disease than people who worked 35-40 hours a week.
Meyer suggests that workers take advantage of any free time and make sure to use that free time for themselves.
“If you have time, try to engage in cooking, so you’re in full control of what you eat,” Meyer said. “Try to restrain your calories. You don’t need to be full all of the time. Also, try to stay away from the refrigerator after dinner.”
While exercise is important, he says it’s not necessary to run a marathon every day. A simple daily walk can do wonders.
“And try to create space to live healthy, which gives us time to eat more healthy,” Meyer said. “This gives us time to spend quality time with our families and to exert ourselves regularly, which are all helpful in modifying our risk factor and specifically the risk factor of weight which has an impact on blood pressure.”
The WHO says 55 hours or more of work a week is a health hazard, so watch your hours and pay more attention to what you physically and mentally need.