Nobody enjoys working late, but now we might just have a scientific excuse not to do it. In a recent study published in the journal The Lancet, data on more than 500,000 men and women from around the US, Europe and Australia showed that even working just one or two hours a day could increase the possibility of having a stroke or heart attack.
Compared to those who work a ‘typical’ 35-40 hour week, people working 41 to 48 hours are 10% more likely to suffer from a stroke, while working more than 55 hours a week increases the chance by a third. As Dr Shanim Quadir of The Stroke Association said: “Working long hours involves sitting for long periods, experiencing stress and leads to less time to look after yourself.”
According to official statistics, 150,000 people suffer a stroke every year. The lead author of the study, Professor Mika Kivimaki from University College London commented: “Health professionals should be aware that working long hours is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, and perhaps also coronary heart disease.”
It all sounds like scary stuff, we’re sure you’ll agree. The specific reasons for the increased risk of both strokes and heart disease can’t actually be pinpointed, but researchers suggest it’s probably a combination of the stress of working long hours, coupled with the sorts of behaviour related to working late such as lack of exercise and high alcohol consumption.
And it looks like us Brits aren’t the only ones recognising the dangers in working late. As of October, Japanese retailer Fast Retailing will be giving 10,000 full-time Uniqlo employees the chance to trial a four-day workweek. Yep, the change comes in a bid to retain full-time employees who have previously struggled with the notoriously intense Japanese work ethic and have been forced to change to part-time.
But it’s not all good news. The ‘lucky’ 10,000 will have to work 10 hour days for the rest of the week and on Saturdays and Sundays, meaning that the change has barely any advantage.
After all, how realistic is it for people to work within the 35-40 hour week? With an increase in shift work and workers required to put in more and more hours, it looks like stress levels will only continue to increase.
So remember next time you’re alone in the office after hours; you could be putting your health at risk. And if that’s not reason enough to go home, we don’t know what is.