WHO: Working long hours poses a serious health problem

WHO: Working long hours poses a serious health problem

WHO: Working long hours poses a serious health problem

Working too much can kill you - who would have thought? A recent study has revealed that working too many hours can pose a serious health risk.

Working too much can kill you

In the first global study to examine the connection between loss of life and working hours, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have announced that working more than 55 hours a week poses a serious health risk.

According to the study, the number of deaths from heart disease due to overworking rose by 42 percent between 2000 and 2016, with the number of deaths from stroke also rising by 17 percent. An estimated 398.000 people died from a stroke in 2016, and 347.000 from heart disease, as a result of working over 55 hours a week. "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," said WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.

The study concludes that, compared to a 35 to 40 hour week, working 55 hours or more increases the risk of stroke by 35 percent; similarly, the risk of dying from ischemic heart diseases increases by 17 percent.

The coronavirus effect

The study also highlighted the effect of coronavirus on working hours. According to the WHO, the pandemic “is accelerating developments that could feed the trend towards increased working time.”

Working from home has become increasingly popular in Germany. A recent survey by the Hans Böckler Foundation revealed that 24 percent of people working in Germany were working from home, either full or part-time, by the end of January 2021. This figure rose from just 14 percent at the end of November 2020. The study also noted that even more people had the potential to carry out their work from their own home.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work,“ said Ghebreyesus. "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.”

Calls to cap working hours

The WHO has called for a cap on working hours. "What we want to do with this information is promote more action, more protection of workers," said Maria Neira, director of the WHO's Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. WHO technical officer Frank Pega argued capping hours would also increase worker productivity. "It's really a smart choice not to increase long working hours in an economic crisis," he said.

The WHO also suggested actions governments and employers could take to limit employee working hours. Governments could impose laws and regulations that ban mandatory overtime and employers could enter into collective bargaining agreements with workers' associations and agree on maximum working time limits.

William Nehra


William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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