On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Working Long Hours Can Affect Health

It’s no surprise: Americans work long hours every week. Full-time U.S. workers report clocking an average of 47 hours a week, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. These numbers are higher than the averages reported in many other developed countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Australia and Japan. The United States is also ranked No.16 in the world for longest workweeks and its citizens have a reputation for taking fewer vacation days, working longer days and retiring later in life. Needless to say, many Americans have experienced the stress that comes from overwork and some are beginning to experience physical ailments from their exhaustion.

Common Health Problems from Working Long Hours

Working too much can cause health problems. Below are just a few of the common problems often seen as a result of overwork.
  • Heart health. Long working hours are associated with problems with the vascular system, according to a study by the University College London. This may be caused by long periods of inactivity (sitting in your office chair) or unhealthy habits that often develop in people who work long hours, like unhealthy eating, smoking or drinking.
  • Stroke. In the same study, research showed participants who worked between 41 to 48 hours had a 10 percent higher risk of stroke than those who worked between 35 to 40 hours per week. This number increased significantly for participants who worked between 49 to 54 hours, with a 27 percent higher risk of stroke.
  • Stress. Working long hours often leads to both higher emotional and physical stress on your body. When left unchecked, high stress can lead to issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. If you find yourself getting stressed while at work, practice quick meditation techniques, get adequate exercise and be sure to eat a balanced diet.

Health Problems Women May Experience When Working Long Hours

Women may be at heightened risk for additional health issues that can arise from working long hours. Women have a higher risk of health issues when they work more than 40 hours a week, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Because women sometimes take on a larger portion of family responsibilities, they may face more pressure and stress when away from work. Combined with longer work hours, women may have more difficulty balancing their work and family demands, and thus they can experience more health risks. Studies show that women who work longer than 40 to 50 hours per week may be at higher risk for stress complications, sleep issues, digestive problems and fatigue. The study showed that while men who work longer than 40 hours may have a higher risk for arthritis, there is no known correlation to any other chronic disease. However, women have a stronger risk for chronic issues like lung disease and depression compared to women who work less than 40 hours per week.

Ways to Improve Your Working Experience

Small changes in your workplace habits can also make a significant difference in your health while in the office. Remember to drink water often, get up and move every hour, practice meditation techniques, eat healthily and exercise every day. These small changes may help reduce some of the negative effects working long hours can have on your body. If you work more than 40 hours and find yourself experiencing symptoms of these conditions, it may be time to visit your doctor. Once you are educated on any issues you may have, discuss your options with your boss to find a solution that works best for both your health and your career.

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