Long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischaemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000, according to the latest estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) published in Environment International recently.
In a first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, WHO and ILO estimate that, in 2016, 398,000 people died from a stroke and 347,000 from heart disease as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.
The study concludes that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.
Governments, employers and workers can take the following actions to protect workers' health:
• Governments can introduce, implement and enforce laws, regulations and policies that ban mandatory overtime and ensure maximum limits on working time;
• Bipartite or collective bargaining agreements between employers and workers' associations can arrange working time to be more flexible, while at the same time agreeing on a maximum number of working hours;
• Employees could share working hours to ensure that numbers of hours worked do not climb above 55 or more per week.