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WHO study links longer work hours to heart disease, stroke, death

Construction workers are seen working on a project in Sunnyvale, Calif., on April 16, 2020. Monday's report says shortened life spans related to long work hours significantly affected men and those who live in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Construction workers are seen working on a project in Sunnyvale, Calif., on April 16, 2020. Monday's report says shortened life spans related to long work hours significantly affected men and those who live in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

May 17 (UPI) -- People who work long hours, more than 55 per week, are at greater risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke than those who work normal work weeks, the World Health Organization and International Labor Organization said in an analysis Monday.

The report examines how exposure to long work hours affected people in almost 200 countries and the occurrence of ischemic heart disease and stroke, by gender and age.

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The study, which is the first of its kind, says 745,000 people died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease and those deaths were related to working long hours.

"Globally in 2016, 488 million people were exposed to long working hours," the report states. "This exposure had 745,194 attributable deaths and 23.3 million [disability-adjusted life years] from ischemic heart disease and stroke."

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The report says shortened life spans related to long work hours significantly affected men, people with greater work burdens and those who live in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia.

According to the analysis, attributable disease burdens were estimated by applying the population-attributable fractions to WHO's global health estimates of total disease burdens.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the COVID-19 pandemic has "blurred the boundaries" between home and work a little, as more people have had to work remotely over the past year.

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"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," Ghebreyesus said, according to CNBC.

"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."

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