Working more than 11 hours a day increases your risk of heart disease by 67% compared with those who work a standard 7-8 hours a day, according to a new study from by the Medical Research Council (MRC).
The research, led by Professor Mika Kivimäki, used data from the Whitehall II study, which followed the health and wellbeing of over 10,000 civil service workers since 1985.
Men and women who worked full time and were free of heart disease or angina at the start of the study were selected, a total of 7,095 study participants.
The researchers collected information on heart risk factors, including age, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking habits and diabetes.
They also asked participants how many hours they worked – both daytime and work brought home – on an average weekday.
During the 11-year follow-up, researchers collected information about heart health, including those who had suffered from heart attacks, from medical screenings every five years, hospital data and health records.
Over the course of the study 192 participants suffered a heart attack.
People who worked 11 hours or more a day were 67% more likely to have a heart attack than those who worked shorter hours.
Professor Kivimäki said: ‘’We have shown that working long days is associated with a remarkable increase in risk of heart disease.
‘’Considering that including a measurement of working hours in a GP interview is so simple and useful, our research presents a strong case that it should become standard practice – this new information should help improve decisions regarding medication for heart disease.
‘’ It could also be a wake-up call for people who overwork themselves, especially if they already have other risk factors.”
The study was also funded by the British Heart Foundation, the BUPA Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and is published today in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Professor Stephen Holgate, chair of the MRC’s Population and Systems Medicine Board, said: ‘’This study might make us think twice about the old adage ‘hard work won’t kill you’.
‘’It’s crucial that we invest in long term studies like the Whitehall II study, which has been running for over a quarter of a century, to test our preconceptions about what really is good or bad for our health.
‘’Tackling lifestyles that are detrimental to health is a key area for the MRC, and this research reminds us that it’s not just diet and exercise we need to think about.’’