Hundreds of thousands of people are dying every year from work-related strokes and heart disease, major new analysis from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed.
The global analysis into long workdays and loss of health found that as many as 745,000 deaths in 2016 could be linked to working at least 55 hours a week.
Those fatalities were generally among those aged 60 to 79 who had worked 55-hour weeks back when they were aged 45 to 74.
And it’s getting worse.
The joint study by the WHO and the International Labour Organisation found that heart disease deaths linked to working long hours increased by 42 per cent between 2000 and 2016.
Stroke deaths linked to long hours also increased by 19 per cent.
Men are also more likely to be affected, making up 72 per cent of deaths. Southeast Asian and Western Pacifics were also more likely to suffer the ill effects of long workdays
“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work,“ said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.
"Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours.
“No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease. Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.”
55-hours per week is a ‘health hazard’
Dr Maria Neira, director of the department of environment, climate change and health at the WHO added that working 55 hours a week should be considered a “serious health hazard”.
“It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death.”
The WHO called on governments and the private sector to introduce laws and policies banning mandatory overtime. Governments also need to install maximum limits of 55 working hours a week.
Employees, employers and unions should also use collective bargaining agreements to build flexible working plans that also enshrine maximum total working hours.