Healthy living

Overtime 'bad for the heart'

Overtime  bad for the heart Heart disease risk increased by 60%

Working overtime is bad for the heart, researchers have found.

People who regularly work 10 or 11 hour days are 60 per cent more likely to suffer from heart-related problems such as death due to heart disease, heart attacks and angina.

The findings come from a study which followed the health and work patterns of over 6,000 UK civil servants aged between 39 and 61 working in London. All were tracked for an average of 11 years.

After taking into account factors such as age, sex, marital and job status, they discovered that working three to four hours overtime - but not one to two hours - was associated with a 60 per cent higher rate of heart disease compared with those who worked a typical seven hour day.

There was a number of explanations which could explain the link between overtime and heart disease, said the researchers.

Working overtime was linked to people with "type A" personalities who are more driven, aggressive, competitive and stressed.

The results also showed that people who worked more overtime tended to be more depressed and anxious and perhaps did not get enough sleep or time to unwind before going to sleep.

Dr Marianna Virtanen, an epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University College London, said: "Our findings suggest a link between working long hours and increased coronary heart disease risk, but more research is needed before we can be confident that overtime work would cause coronary heart disease."

Cathy Ross, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study raises further questions about how our working lives can influence our risk of heart disease.

"Although the researchers showed a link between working more than 3 hours overtime everyday and heart problems the reasons for the increased risk weren’t clear.

“If we’re stuck in the office we’ve less time to relax, get a good night’s sleep, and take enough physical activity, all of which have been found to help reduce stress levels and protect against heart disease."

The study is published online in the European Heart Journal.

This article was published on Wed 12 May 2010

Image © Matt Baker -

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