Type A. Workaholic. Burning the candle at both ends. Married to the job.
If any of those describe your approach to your career, and you’re letting those vacation days pile up, you may be setting yourself up for some serious health problems.
A recent study from University College in London, for instance, linked working long hours to stroke risk.
Researchers looked at data on more than 600,000 people, and found that those who worked more than 55 hours per week had a nearly 33% higher risk of stroke than those who worked a normal 40-hour week.
The study also showed a 13% increased risk for a heart attack.
But a big question remains — why might working so much be bad for us?
Stress may be a major factor, says Charles Raison, MD, professor of psychiatry for the University of Wisconsin.
If you’ve got ongoing stress, “the body begins to accommodate that chronic stress, and almost none of the effects are good,” he says.
The mental tension and worry has both physical and mental effects, says Ralph Sacco, MD, a neurologist and past president of the American Heart Association.
“One of the biggest things we know (is) that people who are stressed — whether it’s individual family stress, economic stress, or social stress — can increase blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease and stroke,” Sacco says. “It can also increase the risk of depression, and depression itself is related to an increase stroke and heart disease.”
In fact, some workplace stress can be as bad for us as secondhand tobacco smoke, according to a recent analysis of more than 200 studies, done by Harvard Business School and Stanford University.
The analysis looked at 10 workplace stressors, including work-family conflict, job insecurity, and “a lack of perceived fairness” by companies. It measured how those things affected a person’s self-rated poor physical and mental health, doctor-diagnosed health problems, and death.
Work-family conflict increases the odds of self-reported poor physical health by about 90%, the analysis found. And a lack of perceived fairness by an employer ups the odds of having a doctor-diagnosed health problem by about 50%.
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SOURCE: WebMD Health News