Staff who work more than 11 hours a day are two thirds more likely to suffer heart disease than colleagues working a standard seven to eight hours, research has found.
The study undertaken by researchers at University College London tracked the health of 7,095 civil servants aged between 39 and 62 over an 11-year period. Information was collected on heart risk factors such as age, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking habits, diabetes as well as the number of hours participants worked.
Professor Mika Kivimaki, who is based at the University’s Epidemiology and Public Health department, said: “We have shown that working long days is associated with a remarkable increase in the risk of heart disease.”
As a result, the study should serve as a wake-up call for people who overworked, especially if they had other risk factors as well, she added.
But Frances Molloy, chief executive at Health@Work, a charity that provides advice and support on workplace health, also pointed to research from trade union umbrella organisation the TUC. The findings indicated that 5.26 million workers undertook unpaid overtime last year, the highest level since records began in 1992, with a huge one in five doing so regularly.
“These figures are shocking and it highlights the dangers of working long hours in a stressful environment,” she said.
A survey undertaken among 149 multinational companies by professional services company Towers Watson, meanwhile, revealed that three quarters of respondents expected workforce health and activity to promote staff health and well-being would become a higher priority over the next 24 months.
A huge 87% expected the issue to become even more important over the next two to four years and, as a result, some 47% said they intended to implement a global workforce health strategy over the next 24 months in anticipation.
Just under a third claimed they had such a strategy in place at the moment, while three quarters said that they currently offered wellness programmes, which include preventative care, health screening and education.
When asked to rank the three most important aims of a global workforce health strategy, however, 54% of respondents said they wanted to demonstrate continued interest in employee well-being, resiliency and stress management.