Long work hours killing about 745,000 people annually, WHO study finds

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Working long hours is killing hundreds of thousands of people a year, according to a new study from the World Health Organization.

The WHO and the International Labour Organization issued a joint news release on Monday saying long working hours led to 745,000 deaths – about 398,000 from stroke and 347,000 from heart disease – in 2016 as a result of working at least 55 hours a week. That’s a 29 percent increase since 2000, the two groups said.

The “work-related disease burden” is more significant in particular groups, according to the study. About 72 percent of the deaths were among males, the WHO says. In addition to men, the two groups say people in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, along with middle-aged or older workers, were more impacted by working long hours. Most of the deaths they recorded were among people in the 60 to 79 age range who had worked for 55 hours or more a week between the ages of 45 and 74, according to the news release.

The study concluded that working 55 hours or more a week leads to an estimated 35 percent higher risk of a stroke and 17 percent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease compared to working between 35 and 40 hours a week.

But the two groups also found the number of people working longer hours is increasing, which they say puts even more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.

“Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard,” WHO Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health Director Dr. Maria Neira said. “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 says it’s the first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with long working hours.

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