Racking up the hours at our desks may lead to a promotion or a pay rise in the short run, but over the long run, it backfires on women.
A new study has revealed that women, who work more than 40 hours a week for 30 years could be increasing their risk going to an early grave. Work weeks that averaged 60 hours or more over three decades appear to triple the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart trouble and arthritis for women, according to The Ohio State University study.
The risk begins to climb when women put in more than 40 hours and takes a decidedly bad turn above 50 hours, researchers found. “Women – especially women who have to juggle multiple roles – feel the effects of intensive work experiences and that can set the table for a variety of illnesses and disability,” said lead author Allard Dembe.
“People don’t think that much about how their early work experiences affect them down the road,” he said. “Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s are setting themselves up for problems later in life.”
Men with tough work schedules appeared to fare much better, found the researchers, who analysed data from interviews with almost 7,500 people who were part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Women tend to take on the lion’s share of family responsibility and may face more pressure and stress than men when they work long hours, previous research shows. On top of that, work for women may be less satisfying because of the need to balance work demands with family obligations, Dembe said.
Employers and government regulators should be aware of the risks, especially to women who are required to regularly toil beyond a 40-hour work week, he said. Companies benefit in terms of quality of work and medical costs when their workers are healthier, Dembe said.
The study is published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.