According to a recent study conducted in the U.K. and published in the Journal European Heart, people who work longer hours, have a sixty percent higher risk of problems related to the heart. People who worked overtime—that is those who worked more than a regular seven hour day suffered more heart problems. Longer work hours resulted in higher rates of death from heart disease, angina and non-fatal heart attacks.
This study further found that these results held after accounting for a variety of other risk factors. Coronary heart disease and long overtime hours were thus independently linked. Smoking, obesity and other common risk factors did not change the results.
This long term study began in 1985 and examined over ten thousand office staff at Whitehall. These people were between the ages of 35 and 55 and worked in the civil service departments in London. Beginning in 1991, hours of work were recorded and over six thousand people continued on in the study.
Overall the study concluded that after adjusting for age, martial status, risk factors and socio-economic status, the patterns revealed that even working three to four hours overtime gave rise to the 60% increase in negative outcomes. Apparently, working one or two hours did not seem to have any effect on heart disease and heart health.
Researchers speculate that the reasons for this dramatic increase in fatal and negative outcomes among those working long hours might be related to the lack of sleep such people inevitably get. Other possibilities include the tendency of type A personalities to work longer hours. This type is generally associated with being more competitive, aggressive, hostile, tense, and anxious. Stress and anxiety more generally are also thought to play a role.
Failing to give yourself enough time to wind down from a stressful day can cause a variety of health related problems as most health care practitioners already know. This study is just one more in a slew of studies which have analyzed the very negative effects of stress and anxiety on health.
Taking care of one’s health is also too often thought of merely as a luxury to workaholic types. If you are ignoring symptoms and signs of health problems in order to continue working you may be hurting yourself more than you think. Moreover, high blood pressure is itself related to work stress and can sometimes fail to be diagnosed during routine medical exams.
The bottom line is that it is important to take care of yourself and to recognize when you might be working too hard. Your health should always come first even when important deadlines are on the horizon.