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Cancer, diabetes, heart disease: long working hours are a health risk

Cancer, diabetes, heart disease: long working hours are a health risk


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Long working hours increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease in women
Women often have to overcome particularly high hurdles in their professional careers, since they often carry a large part of their family responsibilities and interruptions caused by possible pregnancies must also be compensated for. Many plan to return to work full-time as quickly as possible, which is usually associated with working hours of 40 hours or more. A decision that is financially worthwhile, but that can have serious long-term health consequences, according to a recent study in the USA.

In their study, the US scientists from Ohio State University and the Mayo Clinic examined the connections between weekly working hours and the risk of serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes. For women, they found the fatal effect of long working hours. With more than 40 hours of work a week, her risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes increased significantly, the Ohio State University said. The researchers published the results of their study in the journal "Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine".

Relationship between chronic diseases and working hours examined
The researchers analyzed the connection between the occurrence of serious illness and the weekly working hours on the basis of the available data from the "National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979". Over a period of 32 years, the working hours and the occurrence of chronic diseases were documented here. In their study, the scientists focused on eight clinical pictures: heart disease, cancer (with the exception of skin cancer), arthritis or rheumatism, diabetes or high blood sugar, chronic lung diseases (including bronchitis or emphysema), asthma, depression and high blood pressure.

Stress, sleep and digestive problems known consequences
It was already known from previous studies that employees are more stressed during long working hours, develop sleep and digestive problems more frequently and are increasingly tired. "Their work performance is deteriorating and they have more injuries at work," says Professor Allard Dambe of Ohio State University. So far, however, there are only limited data on the connection between long working hours and chronic illnesses, since the long-term collection of working patterns and health status is extremely difficult. In their current study, the researchers used the data from participants from the "National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979", who were at least 40 years old in 1998.

Men have few health disadvantages due to long working hours
Analysis of the data from around 7,500 participants showed that only a minority of full-time employees in the study worked 40 hours or less per week. “56 percent worked an average of 41 to 50 hours; 13 percent worked an average of 51 to 60 hours; and 3 percent more than 60 hours on average, ”the scientists report. According to the researchers, men were hardly affected in their health by working long hours. They were only more likely to have arthritis, "and men who worked moderately long hours (41 to 50 hours a week) were even less at risk of heart disease, lung disease, and depression than those who worked 40 hours or less" Prof. Dembe and colleagues.

Risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes in women increases
In contrast, according to the researchers, female full-time employees showed a striking connection between long working hours and the occurrence of heart diseases, cancer, arthritis and diabetes. "Women - especially women who juggle multiple roles - feel the effects of intensive work and, if necessary, lay the basis for a variety of diseases and disabilities," warns Professor Dembe. Women tend to assume the lion's share of family responsibility and are faced with more pressure and stress than men when working long hours. In addition, the work for women - because of the need to combine job requirements with family obligations - can be less satisfactory, according to Dembe.

Researchers emphasize that employers and government regulators need to be aware of the risks of long hours, especially for women who regularly work over 40 hours a week. In the long term, the company benefits in terms of the quality of work and the cost of medical care if the employees are healthier. "The early onset of chronic diseases can not only reduce people's life expectancy and quality of life, but can also significantly increase health costs in the long term"; the US scientists emphasize. (fp)

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