Updated 22 September 2017

Here’s why it can be dangerous to work overtime

Putting in too much overtime? According to new research, it might be damaging your heart.

The South African Department of Labour clearly stipulates that a maximum workweek consists of one to five days a week, nine hours a day and 45 hours per week.

Yet, many South Africans clock far more hours than this. 

A 40-hour work week may seem normal to some and like a vacation to others. But a study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine shows that consistently surpassing this standard can be detrimental to your health.

Increased risk of heart disease

Researchers found that working 61 to 70 hours a week increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 42%, and working 71 to 80 hours increased it by 63%.

That's an important finding because heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, with more than half a million deaths each year in the United States alone, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Higher risk of stroke

A separate study, published in The Lancet, found that people who work long hours have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours.

All this overtime may not even lead to increased productivity because long hours can actually decrease your efficiency. Germany boasts the largest economy in Europe, yet the average worker only spends 35.6 hours per week on the job.

Other health problems

Working overtime doesn't only have a negative effect on your heart health. According to a previous Health24 article, there are more negatives linked to overtime, especially if a person has limited job satisfaction:

  • Sleep problems
  • A higher risk for other chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and chronic lung disease
  • Poorer eating habits
  • Greater risk for mental health problems

Take stock

If you feel that your work life is taking its toll on your health, there are some things you can do. Working fewer hours may not seem realistic at first, but there are steps you can take to help make it a reality.

1. Get some shuteye

First, get more sleep at night. This will give you the energy to be more productive during the day and get you out of the office sooner.

2. Plan ahead

Next, create an organised list of tasks for each day. Check off each item when completed to give yourself the motivation to get through your day more efficiently.

3. See the bigger picture

Then remind yourself that working fewer hours will give you more free time in the short term and decrease health threats to give you a higher quality of life in the long term.

Image credit: iStock


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