You're probably well aware of the health risks associated with working too much (hopefully not first hand!). Quick refresher: More time spent in the office leads to more stress, more trouble sleeping, and a general decline in work performance, according to loads of previous studies. But the long-term effects are less known, which is what experts from The Ohio State University set out to research. The findings should be a wake-up call to anyone who has a pillow stashed under their cubicle (you know, just in case).
The researchers compared the number of hours worked each week with the diagnosis of eight chronic diseases for almost 7,500 people over a 32-year period. They found that 56 percent of study participants worked 41 to 50 hours a week on average, 13 percent worked somewhere between 51 and 60, and 3 percent consistently worked more than 60 hours a week. The increase in health risks starts for women who log more than 40 hours a week—and gets worse from there. The women who clocked an average of 60 hours at the office each week were three times more likely to develop heart disease, cancer (excluding skin cancer—#indoorlife), arthritis, and diabetes.
Interestingly, men didn't have the same gloomy fate. For them, more hours at the office equated to an increased risk of arthritis but none of the other diseases. The researchers chalked it up to the fact that many women take on the majority of family responsibilities on top of their work to-dos.
One caveat: These numbers may be even more alarming than they seem because the results incorporate just the early onset of chronic disease (those who've been diagnosed by age 40 or 50 rather than later in life).
So, how can you protect yourself if you work at a demanding job? The researchers say flexible schedules, health coaches at work, and frequent screenings could help. But if those sound like perks that are up to the work gods, your best bet is to focus on boosting your productivity. It may sound counterproductive, but setting aside time for a spin class could help. One study found people's productivity increased 23 percent on days when they exercised versus when they skipped the gym.