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Long working hours are a killer, WHO study shows

Stock MarketsMay 17, 2021 03:36AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Labourers are silhouetted against the sun while digging a field to install water pipes along a road in Karachi, May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Athar Hussain/File Photo 2/2

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) - Working long hours is killing hundreds of thousands of people a year in a worsening trend that may accelerate further due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization said on Monday.

In the first global study of the loss of life associated with longer working hours, the paper in the journal Environment International showed that 745,000 people died from stroke and heart disease associated with long working hours in 2016.

That was an increase of nearly 30% from 2000.

"Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard," said Maria Neira, director of the WHO's Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.

"What we want to do with this information is promote more action, more protection of workers," she said.

The joint study, produced by the WHO and the International Labour Organization, showed that most victims (72%) were men and were middle-aged or older. Often, the deaths occurred much later in life, sometimes decades later, than the shifts worked.

It also showed that people living in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region -- a WHO-defined region which includes China, Japan and Australia -- were the most affected.

Overall, the study - drawing on data from 194 countries - said that working 55 hours or more a week is associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease compared with a 35-40 hour working week.

The study covered the period 2000-2016, and so did not include the COVID-19 pandemic, but WHO officials said the surge in remote working and the global economic slowdown resulting from the coronavirus emergency may have increased the risks.

"The pandemic is accelerating developments that could feed the trend towards increased working time," the WHO said, estimating that at least 9% of people work long hours.

WHO staff, including its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, say they have been working long hours during the pandemic and Neira said the U.N. agency would seek to improve its policy in light of the study.

Capping hours would be beneficial for employers since that has been shown to increase worker productivity, WHO technical officer Frank Pega said.

"It's really a smart choice not to increase long working hours in an economic crisis."

Long working hours are a killer, WHO study shows
 

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Comments (17)
dek ra
dek ra May 17, 2021 10:52AM ET
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Who cares? They are not even women, minor ethnicity or LGBTQ
Greg Hamilton
OptionsTrader May 17, 2021 6:58AM ET
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Oh no! I thought hard work and long hours was the way to success?
Vincent Li
Vincent Li May 17, 2021 6:49AM ET
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All businesses must track wprk hours of employees at the computer or in meetings to ensure healthy hours are met otherwise companies will get penalty from the labor department..
Investing Man
Investing Man May 17, 2021 3:41AM ET
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The world is getting more angry, evident with the attack on the capital. The people are over burdened seeing how their taxes are giving the rich luxurious life styles but no life style change of their own. Corporations can keep pushing this race to the bottom, but they wont like where it goes.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller May 17, 2021 3:15AM ET
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To general a study, did not account for ever increasing obesity rates due to the adoption of the poor western diet and poor lifestyle choices.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller May 17, 2021 3:15AM ET
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Substandard studies like this is what your tax dollars fund.
Maikel Roman Remedio
Maikel Roman Remedio May 17, 2021 12:39AM ET
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Lies and more lies coming from WHO...
Investing Man
Investing Man May 16, 2021 9:55PM ET
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You ever see history, where the taxes of populations benefit a very few people way too much while burdening others to give them luxurious life styles? I promise you this, it never ends well for the people with  things to take, because everyone else has little to lose.
Rick Baier
Rick Baier May 16, 2021 9:32PM ET
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No cigarettes for me ever.
Buz Burkhead
Buz Burkhead May 16, 2021 9:11PM ET
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Ya think any of those folks smoked cigarettes?
Rick Baier
Rick Baier May 16, 2021 9:04PM ET
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12 hour rotating shift work 27 years I'm in trouble
Keith Friedly
Keith Friedly May 16, 2021 9:04PM ET
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I've been doing 12 hrs shifts for almost 22, I'm done in 6 months
Rick Baier
Rick Baier May 16, 2021 9:04PM ET
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Same here retire in October
Black Beard
Black Beard May 16, 2021 8:53PM ET
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the corporations couldn't care less. shut up commie!
Malcolm Gibson
Malcolm Gibson May 16, 2021 8:52PM ET
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"off" that is
Malcolm Gibson
Malcolm Gibson May 16, 2021 8:50PM ET
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So, is forced time of in the cards?
Malcolm Gibson
Malcolm Gibson May 16, 2021 8:50PM ET
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off
Rick Baier
Rick Baier May 16, 2021 8:28PM ET
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Well it's official then Generation Z will live to 150 years old.
Michael Angelo
Michael Angelo May 16, 2021 8:26PM ET
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Ask Amazon in their warehouses.
Frank Olivarez
Frank Olivarez May 16, 2021 8:24PM ET
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Water is wet
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun May 16, 2021 8:21PM ET
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Who cares what WHO is saying. No work=die from hunger. At the end, u r de/ad anyway
Michael Angelo
Michael Angelo May 16, 2021 8:21PM ET
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Right but, I care.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun May 16, 2021 8:21PM ET
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Michael Angelo care is a word toss arounf freely. what r u going to do about it.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun May 16, 2021 8:21PM ET
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Michael Angelo r u volluntering in those third world countries to help the poor?
 
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