745K heart disease, stroke deaths tied to working long hours, WHO says

In 2016, 745,000 stroke and ischemic heart disease deaths were tied to working at least 55 hours per week, a 29 percent jump since 2000, according to global estimates published May 17 in Environment International.

The global analysis, led by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization, is the first to estimate deaths linked to working 55 hours or more per week, according to the WHO. 

Researchers estimate that 398,000 people died from stroke, and 347,000 died from heart disease associated with working long hours. The majority (72 percent) of such deaths occurred among men. Most deaths occurred among those aged 60-79, who had worked long hours between ages 45 and 74. 

The global analysis was based on two systematic reviews: One involved data from 37 studies on heart disease and included more than 768,000 participants. The second, focused on stroke, included data from 22 studies covering more than 839,000 participants. 

The findings are particularly relevant amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people began working remotely, WHO officials said. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, adding that teleworking often blurs "the boundaries between home and work." 

"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 workers," Dr. Tedros said. 

The WHO outlined a number of strategies to safeguard workers' health in a statement, such as tasking governments with implementing policies that ban mandatory overtime and ensuring limits on maximum working time are in place. 

To view the full report, click here

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