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Workplace Health Management Tips – Time to think about work-life balance


Gracia Lai - February 9, 2022 - 0 comments

Long working hours cause early death

Long working hours have become progressively more common in our society. It is thought to improve productivity when it significantly decreases the quality of work and our mental health. In addition to that, long working hours negatively impacts our sleep quality, leading to overall lower company productivity.1 The impact on our mental health is significant, and studies have shown that longer working hours lead to increasing levels of anxiety and depression symptoms.1

In addition to mental health, long working hours also increase heart disease and stroke. A study by World Health Organization (WHO) found that long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016.2 The number of deaths from long working hours increased by 43% from 2000 to 2016.2 These issues are particularly prevalent in Western Pacific and South-East Asia Regions.2 According to Dr. Maria Neira, the director of the WHO’s Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, “Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard. It’s time that we all, government, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death”.

Pandemic is the trigger 

Mental health issues are particularly emphasized in the pandemic as social isolation and stress associated with the pandemic can add physical and psychological toll on our bodies. In addition to that, overworking can lead to severe mental health issues. The higher the stress level, the higher the level of suicide ideation.3 A study has shown that the three mental health parameters: anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation, have a direct correlation with long working hours.3

Attention to the body’s overloading signals 

We must take this issue seriously and treat our mental health problems before affecting our physical health. Mental health can be treated as long as we pay attention to our body and indications of over-stress. Symptoms of excessive stress can appear physically, including headaches, pains, sickness, insomnia, appetite changes, mood swings, etc.4 For some people, these symptoms can be obvious, and for others, these can appear more subtly. If we cannot treat our stress, causing it to progress to ongoing and chronic stress, serious health problems will start showing up. Therefore, we must treat our anxiety before it takes a permanent toll on our bodies. There are many coping mechanisms for stress, one of which is a healthy and open working environment. Being open and aware of our mental health problems can help us detect them before they worsen.

References

  1. Grandner, M. A. et al. Sleep: Important Considerations for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. Curr. Opin. Cardiol. 31, 551 (2016).
  2. Long working hours increasing deaths from heart disease and stroke: WHO, ILO. https://www.who.int/news/item/17-05-2021-long-working-hours-increasing-deaths-from-heart-disease-and-stroke-who-ilo.
  3. Park, S. et al. The negative impact of long working hours on mental health in young Korean workers. PLoS One 15, e0236931 (2020).
  4. Stress Symptoms: Physical Effects of Stress on the Body. https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body.