Healthy living

Working long hours increases risk of heart disease

Working long hours Take it easy

Working long hours can significantly increase your chances of heart disease, according to a new study.

Working more than 11 hours a day increases your risk of heart disease by 67 per cent, compared with those working a standard 7 to 8 hours a day, researchers at University College London found.

The findings, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, could be useful to doctors when assessing a patient's risk of heart disease, alongside traditional risk factors such as blood pressure measurements, diabetes and smoking.

The study tracked the health of more than 7,000 British civil servants for 11 years. All were aged between 39 and 62 and free of heart disease at the start of the study.

Over the course of the study, 192 participants suffered a heart attack. People who worked 11 hours or more a day were 67 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those who worked shorter hours.

Professor Mika Kivimäki, who led the study, said: "We have shown that working long days is associated with a remarkable increase in risk of heart disease. Considering that including a measurement of working hours in a GP interview is so simple and useful, our research presents a strong case that it should become standard practice."

"It could also be a wake-up call for people who overwork themselves, especially if they already have other risk factors," Dr Kivimäki added.

Professor Stephen Holgate, Chair of the Medical Research Council's Population and Systems Medicine Board, said: "This study might make us think twice about the old adage ‘hard work won’t kill you'.

"It’s crucial that we invest in long term studies like the Whitehall II study, which has been running for over a quarter of a century, to test our preconceptions about what really is good or bad for our health."

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, the BUPA Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

This article was published on Tue 5 April 2011

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