Long Working Hours Have Increased Deaths from Heart Diseases and Stroke: According to WHO and ILO
Between 2000 and 2016, there has been a 29 percent increase in the number of deaths that have been caused by stroke as well as ischemic heart disease, bringing the number of deaths to an outstanding 745,000. This is by the most recent estimates of the International Labor Organization (ILO) as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).
There was a first analysis on the subject of life loss as well as the loss of health as a direct result of long working hours that was conducted globally by WHO and ILO and it revealed that there were 347,000 individuals who died from diseases of the heart and 398,000 individuals who passed on from stroke.
All the deaths were attributed to working an average of at least 55 hours each week. The number of deaths, therefore, increased from 2000 to 2016 by 19% in the case of individuals who had strokes while it increased by 42% for the individuals who had heart
diseases. All these however were from working long hours.
Men are more affected by the work-related disease burden. It was observed that out of the total deaths, 72% were males and this was most of the individuals who live in the South East of Asia and West Pacific region and are either middle-aged or old workers. The majority of the recorded deaths were of individuals who were between 60 and 79 years and when these individuals were in the category of 45 to 75 years, had worked for more than 55 hours each week.
There has been a shift in the thinking of the occupational risk factor to an individual’s health that is more psychosocial. This can be attributed to the fact that long hours of working have been established to make up a third in the estimation of the overall burden of disease that is work-related. Working for long periods has also been identified to be a risk factor that withholds the biggest disease burden that is occupational.
The conclusion made by the study was that working for 55 hours and more each week is directly associated with an increased risk of getting a stroke by 35% and increased risk of one dying from ischemic heart disease by 17% as opposed to those who work 35 to 40 hours per week. The new analysis has been brought at a time where the COVID-19 has been heightening the need for management of work hours. The pandemic has led to developments in the majority of peoples’ work which potentially is encouraging the trend in terms of working time being increased.
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom issued a statement where he pointed out how much the pandemic has changed the structure of how many people work. He pointed out how many industries have taken up teleworking which has subsequently led to rather blurred lines in terms of separating office and home hours. He added that the majority of enterprises have found themselves in situations where they have had to scale back on the operations so that they can save money.
The result of this has been that those who have remained on the payroll have had to work more hours as the work burden has increased. Dr. Tedros finished by saying that the governments need to work together with the workers as well as employees for them to agree regarding the limits when it comes to working hours for them to be able to protect their
The director of the environment department at WHO, Dr. Maria also reinforced that working more than 55 hours per weak is a hazard in terms of one’s health, and the governments, employees, as well as employers, should not dismiss the fact that working long hours can cause premature death.
The actions that can be taken by the government, employers, and workers to ensure the workers’ health is protected are:
- The government can introduce laws, regulations as well as policies that not only ban compulsory overtime but also ensures that there is a maximum limit in terms of working hours and implement and enforce them.
- Employers should have a collective bargaining or bipartite agreement with their workers’ associations. The agreement can ensure that the two parties arrange the working time that is more flexible for the employees and also agreed on the maximum number of hours one will be allowed to work.
- Sharing of work hours. Employees can be paired so that they work as a team in shifts and therefore share the working hours. This will ensure that per individual, the number of hours one works will not be 55 or more per week.
There is no doubt that long hours of working can cause health complications to one’s health and therefore reduce the quality of their work as well as their lives. It is only right that the recommendations above are followed to prevent this and promote a healthy working environment.