Spending Long Hours At Work Increases Your Risk Of Heart Disease
You already know that drinking too much alcohol and smoking cigarettes increase your risk for heart disease. But too much work?
Yes, logging more than eight hours a day at the office raises your chances for heart disease by up to 80 percent, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The study was a meta-analysis, examining 12 published studies of a total of 22,000 people from the past 50 years, and it found that spending too long in the office gave people a 40 to 80 percent greater chance of heart disease, compared to working an eight hour day.
The seven authors -- led by Marianna Virtanen at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health -- aren't exactly sure why the risk of heart disease increased so much. "There are several potential mechanisms that may underlie the association between long working hours and heart disease," they wrote. "One is prolonged exposure to psychological stress."
But the study argues that the increased risk for heart disease isn't just tied to stress and the blood pressure problems it creates. Workers also tend to eat worse when working long hours.
Whatever the reason, the findings are bad news for American workers who spend 8.6 hours of their day on work, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. That comes out to 43 hours in a week. American workers, however, don't put in the longest hours in the Western World. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Mexicans work a bit more --43.2 hours a week, as of 2011.
According to the OECD, Americans are officially spending less hours on the job than they were in 2000. But it's also important to keep in mind that Americans are increasingly allowing their work life seep into their private life. As was reported by The Huffington Post, a recent survey by Good Technology suggests that the workday is increasingly extending beyond the last time card. In the poll, 80 percent of the 1,000 Americans surveyed said that they spend time checking emails and answering phone calls after hours. And so as a result, workers spend an average of seven extra hours per week -- or 30 hours each month -- on work-related issues.
So maybe work needs to be treated like cigarettes? You know, that other cause of heart disease? if you simply can't quit, then find a way to cut back.
Here are tips on how to keep the work hours under control:
1. Turn off the smartphone at night. The sense of unending workday is aggravated by checking email 24/7. Checking your messages at night might make you feel that you're being more productive, but even these minor assignments "exacerbate your feelings of overwork," writes Alison Lobron, a business contributor to The Boston Globe. Sometimes there's no option besides going cold turkey. Other portals have functions that do the job of the "off" button, such as gmail's "e-mail addict" function, which allows you to bar yourself from your in-box from a set period of time,
2. Prioritize. Just because someone sends you an email doesn't mean you need to respond right then. Likewise, you don't need to try to get everything done in a day. So accept and embrace your tendency to prioritize, and "experiment and see which things can fall through cracks without anyone noticing," writes Penelope Trunk, founder of the Brazen Careerist employment website.
3. Take charge and stop complaining. Either "you love your work and you're happy working 15-hour days," says Trunk, or you "take control of your life and create a situation where you stop complaining about having too much work." If fear of being fired for taking action against overwork is the only reason you are not making changes, then it may be time to ask yourself: Is this job worth it?
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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