Work­ing longer hours in­creases risk of stroke

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Work­ing 55 hours or more per week is linked to a one-third greater risk of stroke com­pared to a 35–40 hour work week, ac­cord­ing to re­search pub­lished in The Lancet.

Based on a re­view of 17 stud­ies cov­er­ing 528,908 men and women fol­lowed for an av­er­age of 7.2 years, the in­creased stroke risk re­mained once smok­ing, al­co­hol consumption and level of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity were taken into ac­count.

The study found that com­pared with peo­ple who logged a stan­dard week, those work­ing be­tween 41 and 48 hours had a 10 per cent higher risk, while for those work­ing 49 to 54 hours, the risk jumped by 27 per cent. Work­ing 55 hours or more a week in­creased the risk of hav­ing a stroke by 33 per cent, the study showed.

The long work week also in­creased the risk of de­vel­op­ing coro­nary heart dis­ease by 13 per cent, even af­ter tak­ing into ac­count risk fac­tors in­clud­ing age, sex and so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus, as per the study.

The un­der­ly­ing causes of stroke and heart dis­ease are com­plex, in­volv­ing a mix of ge­netic and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors. But, the re­searchers sug­gest, phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity, high al­co­hol consumption and repet­i­tive stress all en­hance risk.

“The pool­ing of all avail­able stud­ies on this topic al­lowed us to in­ves­ti­gate the as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween work­ing hours and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease risk with greater pre­ci­sion than has pre­vi­ously been pos­si­ble,” Mika Kivi­maki, a pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, said in a state­ment.

The study is the largest so far to ex­am­ine the re­la­tion­ship be­tween work­ing hours and car­dio­vas­cu­lar health and is es­pe­cially note­wor­thy be­cause it points to stroke as a risk of work­ing long hours. Ear­lier stud­ies have linked heart at­tacks to ex­ces­sive work.

Ex­perts not in­volved in the study said the find­ings are im­por­tant, and pointed to dif­fer­ences across na­tions in the av­er­age length of the work week.

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