Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Injury, Pain, Anxiety and Depression

"Overtime and Overboard "

“People who put in long hours at work increase their risk of dying from heart disease and heart attack. In fact, people who work three or more hours of overtime a day have a 60 percent increased risk of heart-related problems such as dying from heart disease, having a heart attack or angina, the researchers noted.

We do not yet know how long exposure is needed before cardiovascular health is affected. Short periods of overtime work are not necessarily dangerous to health.

When the researchers took into account factors such as age, sex, marital status and occupational level, they found those who worked three to four hours of overtime each day, but not one to two hours, increased their risk
for heart disease by 60 percent. Working overtime may be a risk for some individuals in terms of cardiovascular health.

Mechanisms that relate to this risk may be unhealthy lifestyle, stress, depression and lack of sleep. People who work long hours may also be those who ignore their early symptoms and are less likely to go to physical health
check-ups. While it isn_t clear why working overtime increases the risk for heart disease, people who choose to work overtime may be those with so-called type A personalities.

This makes them more aggressive, competitive, tense, time-conscious and generally hostile. They may also have signs of depression and anxiety, and may not get enough sleep, or not enough time to relax before going to
sleep.

It is also possible that people who have more freedom over work-related decisions may have a lower risk of heart disease even if they work overtime. Yet another possibility is that the chronic stress, associated with
working long hours, has an adverse effect on health. There have also been studies suggesting a higher risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke with excess overtime work, he said.

There are a number of potential mechanisms by which excess overtime work could adversely impact cardiovascular event risk including increased stress, excess sympathetic nervous system activity, increased
exposure to secondhand smoke, unhealthy dietary habits, less time to exercise, and individuals with excess overtime work being less included to seek timely and appropriate medical care.”

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