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It may come as no surprise that longer work hours can lead to health problems. Stress from work can manifest as physical and psychological symptoms. But just how much do longer work hours impact our health? A recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine examined a possible correlation between work hours and the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
The study examined 7,095 adults (2109 women and 4986) between the ages of 39 and 62 working for the London civil service from 1991 until 2004, MedScape reports.
The study found a higher correlation (a 67 percent increase) in coronary heart disease incidents for individuals working eleven or more hours a day compared to individuals working seven or eight hours.
Individuals working 11 or more hours also had higher average blood pressure and cholesterol when compared to the seven/ eight hour work group. Individuals who worked longer hours were also at a higher risk for more serious heart conditions, according to the study.
In this population, there seemed to be a trend between increased hours and the frequency and severity of heart conditions. However, this study does not conclude that longer work hours are solely responsible, or even partially responsible for an increased risk in CHD. Individuals who work longer hours are limited in their ability to exercise. Sedentary jobs can limit overall activity, and increase the risk for a large range of health risks. Longer work hours can also correlate to increased stress, which have deleterious effects on the body. Both stress and longer work hours can impact diet and sleep, which can influence heart health. Finally, longer work hours can prevent necessary physician visits, which can prevent serious health complications.
While this study does not confirm nor disprove a correlation between longer work hours for all occupations and increased risk of CHD, it is an important indication of proper life balance. Longer work hours can limit healthy activity, which can lead to many serious heart conditions. It may be beneficial to limit the amount of time spent working, or break-up work hours with exercise, mediation, or enjoyable pastimes.