The Steep Cost To Health Of Working Long Hours Greater For One Sex

Long hours at work damages the health of one sex more than the other.

Women who work more than 40 hours a week are at higher risk of dangerous diseases such as cancer, heart trouble, diabetes and arthritis.

The risk climbs up to triple when, on average, a woman works longer than 50 hours a week, new research from Ohio State University has found.

Professor Allard Dembe, lead author of the study, said:

“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.

People don’t think that much about how their early work experiences affect them down the road.

Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s are setting themselves up for problems later in life.”

Many studies have found that working long hours is linked to a poor lifestyle in both men and women.

They have less sleep, suffer from fatigue and digestive problems and more stress.

Therefore they perform poorer quality work and they are more likely to be injured.

The new study analysed the relationship between long working hours and serious illness over a period of 32 years.


The results were striking as men who worked longer than 40 hours had higher rate of arthritis, but no incidence of the other chronic health conditions.

For women who worked overtime, there was a very strong and clear relationship between early development of heart disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes with long hours.

The analysis of 7,500 people suggests that men appeared to cope much better even with tough work schedules.

Professor Dembe and other researchers provide some reasons  for this difference:

  • Besides long hours work, women also take the largest share of family responsibility and so compared to men face higher stress and pressure.
  • Women feel less satisfied since they need to balance their workload with family responsibilities.

Professor Dembe advises that the government and employers should be aware of the risk to women who are required to work  more 40 hours a week.

Flexible hours, support and health coaching on-the-job can reduce the chances of sickness and serious health damage or even death.

In return, companies will benefit from reduced medical costs and improved quality of work when their employees are healthy.

This study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (Dembe &Yao, 2016).

 Working overtime image from Shutterstock