More than 745,000 people died globally in one year by stroke and heart disease causally linked to working long hours, the World Health Organisation has revealed.
Results from a study with the World Labor Organisation found the number of deaths by heart disease caused by working long hours rose by 42 per cent from 2000 to 2016, and deaths by stroke in those who worked long hours rose by 19 per cent.
While world health leaders are urging workers to ensure they are looking after their health, they admit the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many people’s working situations, and has further blurred the work/life balance.
The study found that in 2016, 398,000 people died from stroke and 347,000 from ischaemic heart disease as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week.
It was further revealed that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35 per cent higher risk of a stroke, and a 17 per cent higher risk of dying from ischaemic heart disease, when compared to working 35-40 hours per week.
The WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the COVID-19 pandemic had shone a spotlight on managing working hours, and had accelerated developments that could “feed the trend” towards increased working time.
“Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work,” he said.
“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 will end up working longer hours.
“No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease.”
Currently, 9 per cent of the total global population is estimated to work excessive hours, with thousands of Australians among them.
In Australia, an employer must not request or require an employee to work any more than 38 hours in a week, unless the additional hours are “reasonable”.
The Fair Work Ombudsman said when determining whether additional hours were reasonable or not, employers needed to take into account whether there was any risk to the employee’s health and safety.