Sobering Study Finds That Overworking Killed 745,000 People in a Single Year

World Health Organization announces 745,000 died from overwork in 2016

Photo: Stock Photos from STOKKETE/Shutterstock

Some people see working long hours as a badge of honor—proof of their hard work and dedication to their job. However, working long hours—by choice or necessity—is not a healthy lifestyle. A recent report by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization was published in the journal Environment International investigateing the extreme health risks of being regularly exposed to long working hours. The findings are sobering: in 2016, it is estimated 745,000 global deaths could be attributed to stroke and ischemic heart disease resulting from overwork.

This large-scale quantitative investigation by the WHO and ILO is the first of its kind. The team of researchers used meta-analysis of previously conducted studies and data to come to their conclusions. “Data from 37 studies on ischemic heart disease covering more than 768,000 participants and 22 studies on stroke covering more than 839,000 participants were synthesized,” the WHO said in a statement. Surveys from 154 countries presented national variations within the global trends.

The results paint a necessary picture of global labor. Of the 2016 deaths, it is estimated 398,000 people died from strokes and 347,000 from heart disease. These deaths were specifically linked to the effects of overwork—defined as 55 hours a week or more. Within these sad figures, there were certain evident trends. For example, men accounted for 72% of the overworking deaths counted. Most deaths occurred at ages 60 to 79 years old. However, the individuals involved were often overworked for decades prior during their middle age. Lastly, geographic variations showed greater levels of work-related disease burden. Western Pacific and South-East Asian regions had higher burdens, while in Europe the problem is significantly less salient.

Globally, 488 million people were overworked in 2016. According to the WHO, “the number of people working long hours is increasing, and currently stands at 9% of the total population globally.” Working more than 55 hours a week “is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease,” when compared to a 35 to 40 hour work week. As deaths from overwork-related health problems have risen in recent decades, the WHO is encouraging governments and employers to promote laws and employment structures to maintain a healthy working week. If you are finding yourself struggling with a work-life balance, check out some helpful tips from the Mayo Clinic to rebalance.

The World Health Organization has announced that 745,000 people died from overwork-related health causes in 2016—a troubling trend that has risen over recent decades.

Overworked and tired employees suffer health problems

Photo: Stock Photos from JES2U.PHOTO/Shutterstock

h/t: [Interesting Engineering]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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