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Summary:

People who regularly work overtime, putting in 10 or 11 hours a day, increase their risk of heart disease by nearly two-thirds, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal — worrying news for web workers who tend to clock long hours.

People who regularly work overtime, putting in 10 or 11 hours a day, increase their risk of heart disease by nearly two-thirds, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal — worrying news for web workers like myself, who tend to clock long hours.

The study covered 6,000 British civil servants, all of whom had healthy hearts at the start of the study in the 1990’s. But as it went on, 369 participants had fatal or non-fatal heart attacks or developed angina. The researchers found that even when risk factors such as age, obesity and smoking were taken into account, people working longer hours had a 56-60 percent higher chance of developing heart disease. The authors of the study say that the reason for the increased risk could be because people who work longer hours have less time for relaxation and exercise, or they may be more anxious or depressed.

However, there is some good news for web workers. A separate paper from the Cochrane Library, published earlier this year, which examined 10 other studies covering some 16,000 people , said that workers who have flexible working arrangements — in other words, get to chose their working hours, like web workers — tend to have lower blood pressure and better heart rates, presumably due to being able to establish a better work/life balance.

Do you work long hours?

Photo courtesy Flickr user normalityrelief, CC-BY-SA

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  1. Leslie A. Joy Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Interesting study. It seems like being a webworker can help cancel out the bad effects of the first study.

    As a webworker, despite the longer hours I work and some monetary issues stemming from getting my business started, my overall quality of life has improved. I’m much happier, more productive, finally have a handle on my ADHD, and break up my exercise so while I’m exercising the same amount, I’m doing it more frequently throughout the day instead of one large chunk.

    Overall, I definitely agree with the first studying saying less hours for relaxation and exercise being in part to blame. Second study is interesting in that it backs up the first study in addition to being good news for web workers.

    Thanks for the post, Simon. Interesting information.

  2. I think that the ability to have some control over your work schedule, i.e., the option to telecommute or build in regular breaks, makes a big difference. When we feel we have control over our lives – even our work lives – we don’t feel as stressed. That control coupled with an organized work space and solid time management skills points us in the right direction.

  3. It’s less about the time worked and more about the stress from the job (British civil servants in this case). If you live a stressfull life, you’ll damage your health regardless of the hours worked.

    That said, proper rest is a key ingredient to better health.

    I’ve yet to see a negative study on people who work 10 hours daily doing what they love and without much stress. :)

  4. Are Longer Hours Damaging Your Health? « Morgan and Me | Intuitive Design & Strategy Friday, May 14, 2010
  5. Based on my own experiences of watching similar test subjects whilst living in the UK, if the study were to accommodate their complete failure to exercise, and their drinking and smoking habits, I think the figure would be closer to 10%…

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