Most people know that working long hours isn’t the secret to happiness – infact, overworked people often rank among the unhappiest. But did you know that those long days could be contributing to ill health, too? Recent studies have found a multitude of ways that long hours can affect your general health, including finding that people who work more than 48 hours a week are much more prone to alcohol abuse. Scary stuff. Here’s some other reasons you should ditch the long hours:
1. Heart Disease
The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health conducted a big study into heart health in 2010, and found that people who work longer than eight hours a day were between 40 and 80% more likely to suffer with heart disease, as opposed to people who worked eight hours or less. A 2011 study seemed to back this up, finding that the risks of heart disease increased by 67% if you work 11 hour days. Crazy. Put down your laptop, your heart will thank you.
2. Weight Gain
This one should come as no surprise, really. Working too long means you’re unlikely to find the time for any decent exercise, and your eating habits tend to get worse, too. I mean, if you’ve just worked for 11 hours, you’re likely to grab a take-away rather than making something home cooked. Long workers are also more likely to grab snacks while working, or to skip meals, which is pretty unhealthy too. You’re burning fewer calories while sitting at a desk, too, and your chances of getting type 2 Diabetes increase.
Spend hours and hours sitting at your desk every day? It’s been linked with lower fertility rates for both men and women. A sedentary lifestyle is much, much more common among people who work long hours, and that can cause issues when you want to conceive. You might not be able to give up the desk easily, but try to get up and stretch your legs once an hour, take the stairs rather than the lift, and try to fit in some stretches to limber yourself up.
Yep, it’s true. Working long hours can actually decrease your intelligence. A study found that people working more than 55 hours a week scored lower on vocabulary and reasoning tests. Why? Working long hours is suspected to cause psychological stress, and slow the brains recovery from that stress. This reduces the executive functioning of the brain, which affects your memory, attention span, and the rate that you can access information at.
Yep. Not only do your long hours prevent you from actually getting into bed, but they could stop you from sleeping once you do get there. The Harvard Business Review published a study into excessive working in 2007, and found that ongoing insomnia was a common problem. It is thought that your long hours stop your brain from turning off properly, as well as robbing it of the chance of unwind. Do try and give yourself time away from a screen before you sleep, and establish a proper nighttime routine.
Working all the time, combined with rubbish sleep, is only going to go one way. You’re soon going to be exhausted, and that will have an impact on your health, your relationships, and your work quality. That Harvard study found that 50% of extreme workers were so exhausted at night that they were incapable of conversation. Literally speechless.
Yep, this is another big one. Working long hours causing the body to produce cortisol, the stress hormone, which take a big toll on the brain and the body. When the body has too much cortisol, glucose in the bloodstream increases, the immune system gets confused, and the body’s growth process is messed up. Stress is also directly linked with a variety of conditions, from heart disease to depression and anxiety. Not fun. The World Health Organisation rates America as the most stressed out country, too.
Of course, you might not have a choice but to work long hours. If that is the case, take steps towards combating some of the above in any way that you can. Use your weekends to cook up batches of home cooked food, which you can quickly reheat. You’ll save money, and make yourself healthier. Schedule a quick exercise session as often as possible, to burn off stress and tire the body out. Ditch screens half an hour before bed, and get used to settling down with a book and a Horlicks. Do you have any other great tips for avoiding the health issues associated with long hours? Leave a comment and share them with us!