Work can seriously damage your health

From: YouClaim
Published: Wed Sep 28 2005

It was Ronald Regan who said ‘Hard work never killed anyone’, but a new study in American shows that he may well have been wrong. And if it doesn’t actually kill you then work related illness certainly can have a seriously detrimental effect on your health!
Some countries actually have a name for it. In Japan they call it karoshi and in China it is called guolaosi. Whilst we don’t have a word for ‘death from overwork’ in Britain yet, we do have the longest working week, the consequences of which experts are warning is likely to have a dramatic effect on stress levels and the general well-being of Britain’s workforce.
The American study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, points out that people who spend more than 12 hours a day at work are exposing themselves to a 37% increased risk of illness and injury compared to colleagues who worked a more average 38 hour a week.
According to the study, extended work hours have been linked to an increased risk of illness including: hypertension, heart disease, fatigue, stress, depression, musculoskeletal disorders, chronic infections, diabetes and many other general health complaints. In the most extreme cases people have suffered brain aneurisms, strokes and heart attacks.
Professor Cary Cooper, a stress expert at Lancaster University Management School, believes that anyone working more than 45 hours a week is at risk. "If you work consistently long hours, over 45 a week every week, it will damage your health, physically and psychologically. In the UK we have the second-longest working hours in the developed world, just behind the States and we now have longer hours than Japan," he says.
Work hours can quickly add up over a week. If you’re in the office at 8am, skip lunch and don’t get away until 6pm – which in many firms is considered an early night, then you can easily clock-up a 50 hour week. People who don’t log off until 7pm or even later, and then may have up to an hour commute home, are clearly in the highest risk group.
As well as being bad for your health, our long working hours culture is bad for business. Stress related illnesses account for 60% of all work absences and costs the UK £8 billion a year in lost working days, a total of 13 million days.
On average we work a 43.6 hour week in the UK, whilst the rest of Europe works an average of 40.3 hours. As well as the effects overwork is having on our health, it is also affecting other people’s health too, as overwork inevitably leads to tiredness and lapses in concentration, which can easily result in accidents.
Rebecca Williams, from YouClaim,, a company who help people who have been injured or suffered ill health as a result of their job to claim compensation from their employers, ‘We deal with large claims from people who have been injured in accidents in the workplace through tiredness due to long working hours, and as many as 25% of the road accident claims we deal with are in some way work-related.’
‘It is easy to give advice to people to cut down on the amount of hours they work, but in reality commercial pressures and possible fear of losing your job to someone who is prepared to put in the hours, can keep people chained to their desks.’
Common sense dictates that long hours and good health are not jointly sustainable, so if you are in a high pressure job, YouClaim have put together a list of points for people who work long hours to consider as ways of relieving stress:
Keep focused on the quality of work you are producing. Sometimes you can get a lot done in a few quiet hours once the phones have stopped ringing and everyone else has gone home, but if you’ve had a few late nights, make sure you balance that with a few early ones, or a lie in.
Leave work on time
Don’t let work take over your life. Staggering home after a long day at work means you’re likely to be too tired to cook a proper meal, or spend any relaxation time with your family – even it that’s just the cat. Try to get away from work promptly at least a couple of times a week and make plans to do something you enjoy when you get home, to help you unwind.
Plan your day
Spent half an hour at the beginning of each day working out your priorities to ensure you’re making the best use of your time. What you don’t get done by the end of the day you can prioritise with your tasks the following morning. There are many tools you can use to help you manage your time and your employer may be willing to send you on a course which would be beneficial to both of you.
Stop being such a nice guy!
Don’t be the person everyone always relies on and comes to with their problems. If you’ve got more than enough on your plate then explain to people that you are unable to take on any more work at the moment, or that if they need your help give them a realistic date when you will be able to do so. Always keep your manager informed if you are getting swamped with work. If you don’t let them know, they can’t do anything about it.
Take a holiday
Spread you annual holiday out so you take a break every few months, even if it’s just a few long weekends. If you have been buried for months under a mountain of work, the chance to step back from it will help you refocus and see your priorities more clearly, something you don’t get to do when you’re busy chasing deadlines.
Do lunch
The lunch hour doesn’t exist any more. The average time taken is now 27 minutes and as many as 20% of all workers fail to take a break at lunchtime or eat lunch at their desks. If your company doesn’t have a separate area where you can go, try to get away from your desk for at least half an hour. Take a stroll up the road, visit colleagues in another office or arrange to go to the pub with them once a week. Take a book into work and sit in your car if you have to. Just take a break.


Notes for editors. YouClaim are the leading online personal injury experts, providing free and impartial legal advice to people who have been injured in accidents caused by other people, at work, on the road or in any situation or circumstance.
Company: YouClaim
Contact Name: Rebecca Williams
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 0800 10 757 95

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