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A study has found that long working hours can lead to death by heart disease and stroke, killing up to 745,000 people a year.
The study from International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) is the first global analysis of the loss of life and health from the two diseases associated with working long hours.
It found 'sufficient evidence' that working 55 hours or more a week is associated with a 'higher risk of both ischemic heart disease and stroke', compared to working 35-40 hours a week.
Figures in the research show that, from 2000 to 2016, the numbers of deaths by heart disease from working long hours increased by 42 percent, and those from stroke by 19 percent.
The study estimates 745,000 people died from heart disease and strokes related to long working hours in 2016.
Of the work-related deaths, 72 percent occurred among males, with middle-aged or older workers aged 60-79 who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 were 'particularly affected'.
Vera Paquete-Perdigão, Director of the Department of Governance and Tripartism at ILO, said in a press release: "Working long hours can lead to numerous mental, physical and social effects. Governments should take this issue very seriously.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation, as workers can be affected by additional psychosocial hazards arising from the uncertainty of the work situation and longer working hours."
The ILO said the findings were 'of particular concern' given that the number of people working long hours globally has increased over time to an estimated 479 million workers - or nine percent of the global population - adding that this is a trend that 'puts more people at risk of work-related disability and early death'.
The full paper was published in Science Direct earlier this week, where the researchers explained: "WHO and ILO estimate exposure to long working hours (≥55 hours/week) is common and causes large attributable burdens of ischemic heart disease and stroke.
"Protecting and promoting occupational and workers' safety and health requires interventions to reduce hazardous long working hours."
To tackle the growing problem, the researchers say governments, employers and workers should implement a number of measures.
These include employers organising working time to avoid negative health outcomes for workers in relation to shift work, night work, weekend work and flexi-time arrangements.
They also argue that governments could introduce laws and policies that ensure maximum limits on working time, and promote workplace compliance for decent working conditions.
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