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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor

Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 12, 2010

A new report suggests the phrase “working overtime is killing me” may be as factual as it is figurative.

According to a long-term study of more than 10,000 civil servants in London, working overtime is bad for the heart.

The research, published online in the European Heart Journal,found that, compared with people who did not work overtime, people who worked three or more hours longer than a normal, seven-hour day had a 60 percent higher risk of heart-related problems such as death due to heart disease, nonfatal heart attacks and angina.

Dr. Marianna Virtanen, an epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki (Finland) and University College London (UK), said: “The association between long hours and coronary heart disease was independent of a range of risk factors that we measured at the start of the study, such as smoking, being overweight, or having high cholesterol.

“Our findings suggest a link between working long hours and increased CHD (coronary heart disease) risk, but more research is needed before we can be confident that overtime work would cause CHD. In addition, we need more research on other health outcomes, such as depression and type 2 diabetes.”

The Whitehall II study started in 1985 and recruited 10,308 office staff between the ages of 35 and 55 from 20 London-based civil service departments. Data have been collected at regular intervals and in the third phase, between 1991-1994, a question on working hours was introduced.

This current analysis looks at the results from 6,014 people (4,262 men and 1,752 women), ages 39 through 61, who were followed until 2002-2004, which is the most recent phase for which clinical examination data are available.

During the average 11.2 years of followup, Dr. Virtanen and her colleagues in Finland, London and France found that there had been 369 cases of fatal CHD, nonfatal heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) or angina.

After adjusting for sociodemographic factors such as age, sex, marital status and occupational grade, they found that working three to four hours overtime (but not one to two hours) was associated with a 60 percent higher rate of CHD compared with no overtime work. Further adjustments for a total of 21 risk factors made little difference to these estimates.

The researchers say there could be a number of possible explanations for this association between overtime and heart disease.

Read in Full:  http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/05/12/health-problems-from-working-overtime/13752.html



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