Around the world, about 20 percent of people with jobs work more than 45 hours a week, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. If you love your work, you may scoff at studies that report the bad effects of long hours on big populations. But even for the most enthusiastic workers, long hours tends to mean eating late or less healthily and less sleep, exercise, de-stressing, and time with people you care about.
In the short term, your body responds to stress by pumping out hormones that may increase your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar. Over time, chronic stress contributes to emotional distress, obesity, heart disease, and a host of other health issues.
For motivation to have a talk with your boss, here’s some of the most recent evidence that overworking taxes your health:
In Japan, if someone dies of overwork, or “karoshi,” his survivors may receive a government pension and damages from his employer. A case study by the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations, lists some typical scenarios: “Mr A worked at a major snack food processing company for as long as 110 hours a week (not a month) and died from heart attack at the age of 34. His death was approved as work-related by the Labour Standards Office.
“Mr B, a bus driver, whose death was also approved as work-related, worked more than 3,000 hours a year. He did not have a day off in the 15 days before he had stroke at the age of 37.
“Mr C worked in a large printing company in Tokyo for 4,320 hours a year including night work and died from stroke at the age of 58. His widow received a workers’ compensation 14 years after her husband’s death.
“Ms D, a 22 year-old nurse, died from a heart attack after 34 hours’ continuous duty five times a month.”
In 2011, 120 deaths officially qualified as karoshi. Another 66 people were judged to have committed suicide because of job stress, a phenomenon called “karojisatsu.”
October 07, 2015
Janet O’Dell, RN