Long working hours are killing people-WHO report

People living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, as well as middle-aged or older workers are the most affected.

Working long hours is killing hundreds of thousands of people a year, a trend that may accelerate further due to the Covid-19 pandemic. File photo: StartupStockPhotos/Pixabay

PRETORIA, May 17 (ANA) – Long working hours are killing thousands of people a year, a trend that might be worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report jointly published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on Monday.

The first such global study of its kind showed 745,000 people had died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease as a consequence of working over long hours.

The deaths occurred mostly in men, who accounted for 72 percent. People living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, as well as middle-aged or older workers were the most affected.

The study concludes that a working week of 55 or more hours is associated with an estimated 35 percent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 percent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.

The study did not cover the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, but WHO said the transition to working remotely as well as the global economic slowdown resulting from the health crisis may have increased the risks associated with long working hours.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work,“ WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement accompanying the report.

“Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours. No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease. Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.”

WHO’S director in the department of environment, climate change and health Dr Maria Neira said working 55 hours or more per week was a serious health hazard.

“It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death,” Neira said.

Capping working hours would be beneficial for employers as that had been shown to increase productivity, WHO added.

“It’s really a smart choice to not increase long working hours in an economic crisis,“ the United Nations health agency’s technical officer Frank Pega said.

– African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa

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