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WHO, ILO attribute 745,000 global deaths to long working hours

By News Desk

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have attributed Long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, saying the fatalities figure represented an increase of 29 per cent since 2000.

Both bodies explained estimated that 398,000 people died from stroke and 347,000 from heart disease in 2016 due to having worked at least 55 hours a week.

They defined ischemic or ischaemia as a restriction in blood supply to tissues, causing a shortage of oxygen that is needed for cellular metabolism (to keep tissue alive).

These estimates were contained in a study titled “Global, regional, and national burdens of ischemic heart disease and stroke attributable to exposure to long working hours for 194 countries, 2000–2016: A systematic analysis from the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury.”

The WHO and ILO noted that during the period under review (2000-2016) the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42 per cent and from stroke by 19 per cent.

They added that the work-related disease burden was particularly significant in men as 72 per cent of deaths occurred among males, adding that the disease affected people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions and middle-aged or older workers.

The study concludes that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35 per cent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 per cent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working for 35-40 hours a week.

“This work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men (72 per cent of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers.

“Most of the deaths recorded were among people dying aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years,” part of an article published on WHO’s website read.

It added, “With working long hours now known to be responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related burden of disease, it is established as the risk factor with the largest occupational disease burden; this shifts thinking towards a relatively new and more psychosocial occupational risk factor to human health.”

The study also notes that the number of people working long hours is increasing and currently stands at nine per cent of the total global population.

Reacting to the development, WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said that the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic has change the mode of work permanently and

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work. Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease.

“Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers,’’ Ghebreyesus asserted.

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