Are you shackled to your office desk for long hours? Do you feel putting in more hours at work would bring more money or promotion your way? If yes, your health and more specifically, your heart could be at risk. It’s true that in the modern world, office work is an unavoidable part of the lifestyle and most office workers do not get the luxury of choosing their working hours. But spending more time in the office – on their own or after being asked by the superiors could have its fair share of downsides.
If you too belong to this leagues, perhaps you already know how long hours at work are interfering with your social life, together with causing ailments like pain in the neck, back or shoulders, obesity, triggering bad mood and stress, or physical fatigue. Apart from all these ill effects on your health, a recent study has brought new issues of concern to the forefront as it revealed how a human heart could be at a greater risk with longer office hours.
A study led by the researchers of the University College London that was published in the European Heart Journal reveals a shocking fact that working for extended hours in office increases the risk of arterial fibrillation (also known as AFib or AF) to a considerable extent. This is true for both the genders. These facts were combined and analyzed with the data of eight previous studies that included over 85,000 men and women from the European nations of Denmark, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Sweden. This study was conducted on individuals who had no arterial fibrillation at the beginning of the study. Yet, the next 10 years saw 1,061 of the participants being affected by AFib.
The participants were segregated according to their working hours. Those putting in 35 to 40 hours a week were diagnosed with arterial fibrillation after 10 years. This meant there were 12.4 AFib cases for every 1,000 people who took part in the study. But the real alarming fact cropped up when the researchers focused specifically on people putting in 55 hours or even more on a weekly basis as the rate escalated to 17.6 AFib cases per 1,000 people.
This showed that the people who spent the most amount of time in office had a 40% more chance of developing arterial fibrillation than their counterparts who took it somewhat easy and worked every week for 35 to 40 hours. And this data was finalized after adjusting the results for factors such as gender, age, obesity, smoking status, socioeconomic position, physical activity during leisure time and extent of risky alcohol use. What was a cause of concern was that 90% of these AFib cases happened to the people who did not have any record of cardiovascular disease earlier. So, it was concluded that long hours of office work was actually responsible for the rise in AFib cases as those affected didn’t have any pre-existing health conditions.
What it means for you
Extended hours of continuous work in the office involves sitting in one place. This way the physical movement is reduced which in turn hinders metabolism. The poor metabolic rate of the body results in obesity over a period of time and in most cases, the condition further worsens to give rise to diabetes. These conditions are all associated with cardiovascular disorders. Diabetes especially shares a close link with heart problems as the body’s inability to break down the accumulated fat poses huge threats to the cardiovascular systems. Also, the practice of working continuously for long hours, that too without a break, triggers exhaustion and stress, which can make the body’s cardiovascular as well as autonomic nervous systems more susceptible to abnormalities. Long hours increase the chances of AFib, which in turn can trigger heart failure, stroke, stroke-related dementia together with some other serious ailments. Perhaps this explains why people working for long hours at their workplace are found to have a greater risk of being affected by stroke.
Though many people may not consider a 40% amplified risk of AFib (due to long working hours) to be not too big a deal, the scenario could change based on how prone an individual is to get affected by heart disease. This means if you already belong to a high-risk factor group (which would include being a smoker, old aged, diabetic etc), what many consider a modest increase in the risk of 40% could end up being substantial in your case.
If you still don’t believe long working hours to be a threat to your heart and overall health, you should take note of a study published in 2016 (the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine) where people who put in 60 or more hours on a weekly basis were found to have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis and asthma compared to their colleagues who worked for 30 to 40 hours.
So, make sure you are not taking up too much on your plate that needs you to stay put in office for long hours. Try to talk to your superiors or managers if you are too stressed by the workload to find a way out. And if all else fails, you better start looking for a new job with decent work hours rather than putting your heart and overall health at risk.