Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A recent analysis of 34 studies has shown that working odd hours increases the likelihood of developing heart disease. Now, researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health have found a similar, yet more significant, risk in people who work overtime.
In a new analysis of 12 studies, involving 22,000 people from around the world, the Finnish researchers found that risk of heart disease climbs to as high as 80 percent for people who work overtime. The finding is based on workers who put in more than the standard eight-hour work day. The team noted that the increase varied from 40 to 80 percent depending on how each study was carried out.
The effects were more pronounced when participants were asked how long they worked–but when researchers closely monitored their working hours, the increase was closer to 40 percent.
Dr Marianna Virtanen, lead investigator of the research, said the effects could be due to “prolonged exposure to stress.” Poor eating habits and lack of exercise could also be key factors.
The findings follow another study carried out in 2009 by the same researchers that found long workdays increase the risk of dementia later in life, reports Daily Mail´s Pat Hagan.
Virtanen and her colleagues found that middle-aged workers clocking 55 hours per week had much poorer brain function than those who worked a standard 40-hour week. Overtime workers scored lower on tests measuring intelligence, short-term memory and word recall.
Unfortunately, overtime work has been an industry standard for decades, and people have no choice but to put in the extra hours to keep their jobs, despite the strain they are putting on their health. In the long-term, this is having devastating effects on workers´ health, the researchers note.
On a positive note, some legislators are working hard to keep employers from forcing their employees to put in extra time–a Massachusetts governor recently passed a law banning mandatory overtime for nurses. While this law was passed as a means to protect patients from mistakes caused by overtired nurses, it should also help keep our caregivers a little healthier themselves.
“There are several potential mechanisms that may underlie the association between long working hours and heart disease,” Virtanen wrote. In addition to prolonged exposure to psychological stress other triggers could be raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol, poor eating habits and lack of physical activity due to restricted leisure time.