There’s no denying working overtime can leave us feeling tired and run down. But new research has suggested a link between longer working hours and stroke, too.
A stroke typically occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. It is a serious, life-threatening medical condition which can result in death. The observational study found people who worked long hours – more than 10 hours a day for at least 50 days per year – had a 29% increased risk of stroke compared to those who worked fewer hours.
The risk increased even more – by a sizeable 45% – if they worked long hours for a period of 10 years or more.
For the study, researchers reviewed data from a survey involving 143,592 participants. Information on age, sex, whether they smoked or not, and work hours was shared in addition to health data.
Surprisingly, the association between 10 years of long work hours and stroke seemed stronger in people under the age of 50, said study author Alexis Descatha, a researcher at Paris Hospital. “This was unexpected. Further research is needed to explore this finding,” he added.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), told HuffPost UK: “These findings might sound alarming for those amongst us who regularly work 10 hours or more in a day, and for many days of the year. However, it is important to note that this type of observational study can only show an association, rather than prove cause and effect.”
She said more research in the form of a clinical trial would be needed to understand if long working hours can lead to stroke. “Further studies would also need to explore how working conditions, such as the type of job and unusual shift patterns, relate to stroke risk,” she added.
Dr Richard Francis, head of research at the Stroke Association, said: “It is currently unclear what may cause the link between working long hours and your stroke risk. The researchers suggest there might be a number reasons for this, including irregular shifts, night work and job strain. These could be responsible for unhealthy working conditions, which might increase the risk of stroke.
“However, there are lots of simple things you can do to reduce the risk of a stroke, even if you work long hours. Eating a healthy diet, finding the time to exercise, stopping smoking and getting the recommended amount of sleep can make a big difference to your health.”
Descatha told HuffPost UK that he’d advise those working long days to maintain a “balanced lifestyle”.
“As a clinician, I will advise my patients to work more efficiently, in better conditions,” he explained, noting he also plans to follow his own advice.