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Easing Work Hours to Decrease Stroke Risk

It’s hard for many of us to find a balance of work and life.  If you’ve thought that working long hours in the office is bad for your health, well you’re probably right. This latest study demonstrates the risk of working extended hours on the job.


New research published in Lancet finds that people who work long hours in an office setting are 33% more likely to have stroke than their colleagues who worked shorter hours.

Researchers performed a systematic review of data from over 4 studies of published and unpublished data from over 600,000 people in Europe, the United States, and Australia.

The unpublished data came from 20 cohort studies from the Individual-Participant-Data Meta-analysis in Working Populations (IPD-Work) Consortium and open-access data archives.

Twenty-five studies from Europe, the USA, and Australia were included. This study was a  meta-analysis which entailed combining the results of many different studies using statistics.

The researchers examined coronary heart disease data for 603, 838 men and women who were free from coronary heart disease at baseline; the meta-analysis of stroke comprised data for 528,908 men and women who were free from stroke at baseline.

The average follow-up time for coronary heart disease was 8.5 years and for stroke was 7.2 years.

The researchers attempted to remove the effects of age, gender, and socioeconomic status in the data through statistical techniques and then compared the outcomes for standard hours (35–40 hours per week) and working long hours (≥55 hours per week).

Working greater or equal to 55 hours per week was associated with an increase in risk of incident coronary heart disease and stroke.

Researchers have emphasized the stroke findings in this study because the risk for stroke seemed to increase more than the risk for heart disease.

The risk of stroke carried a “dose-response association” in the data which strengthens its association.  Meaning the there was an incremental increase in stroke risk with an incremental increase in work hours.

The presence of dose-response association in data usually strengthens the data outcomes.

Researchers were not able to make any conclusions regarding the cause of the increased risk for stroke. They did note that working long hours tends to be correlated with risky behaviors such as heavy alcohol use or extended periods of sitting.

The combination of long hours of sitting, stress and poor health behaviors could be the combination to increase the risk of stroke.

So, if you can keep your hours of work per week under 40, it will likely improve your overall health and well being.  Unfortunately, many of us do not have the option of less work hours.

If you are at work for extended hours, or may be you even work two jobs, there are still some things that you can do to improve your health.  

  • Try taking walks from your desk regularly, even that’s just to go get coffee or to say hi to a co-worker.  
  • Regularly pack snacks like carrots or trail mix for sustained energy throughout your day.
  • Break up lunch time by 5-10 minutes of quite meditation by closing your office door taking a walk with headphones.
  • Park further away from your work place to build in some before and after work exercise.

Benefits of Walking Just 2 Minutes per Hour

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In good health,

J Lee Jenkins, MD

J Lee Jenkins, MD, MSc, FACEP is a practicing board-certified emergency physician and researcher in emergency public health. She can also be found on twitter (twitter.com/jleejenkins) and Facebook (J Lee Jenkins MD).

Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This blog is not intended to provide personal medical advice. As always, please consult with your personal doctor prior to making any changes to your health regimen.

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