Sick and lonely due to long working hours

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Working too long can make you sick and lonely

Study reveals: If you work too much, your health is at risk

Health problems increase with the increase in weekly working hours. In addition, the long working hours affect the social life of the employees. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BauA) announced this on the basis of the evaluation of four independent studies on the subject of working hours and health.

Relationship between working hours and health risks As part of the four studies evaluated, the researchers examined over 50,000 people to determine the impact of variable and long working hours on health. Many working people who have had to work long hours in the past have experienced first-hand that long working hours can lead to increased health risks. However, this connection has not yet been clearly scientifically proven. The four studies evaluated by BauA have now remedied this research deficit and, independently of one another, came to the conclusion that the health problems of employees increase with increasing hours worked. It was the first time that the negative effect of long working hours anticipated by ergonomists and employees could be scientifically proven by the systematic studies. The four underlying studies focused on the relationship between working hours and symptoms such as headache, sleep disorders, back pain and heart problems.

Long working hours make you sick According to the statements of the BauA, the four studies show a clear connection between the length of working hours and the health complaints mentioned. For example, only every tenth part-time employee with less than 19 hours of work per week suffers from sleep disorders, while the number of full-time employees is around twice as many (every fifth employee). Of the people who work more than 60 hours a week, around one in four suffers from sleep disorders and if additional aggravating factors such as shift work, variable working hours or work on weekends are added, the rate of sleep problems increases even further, said the BauA. The evaluation of the surveys showed that the proportion of employees complaining about health complaints increased overall proportionally to the length of the hours worked, according to the Federal Institute.

Impairment of social life due to long working hours In addition, the surveys evaluated have shown that the length of weekly working hours also affects people's social life. The longer the working hours, the stronger the subjective feeling of social isolation, the BauA experts explained. The compatibility of work, leisure time and family dwindles with the increasing length of weekly working hours, BauA continues. According to the studies, the flexibilization of working hours, for example through flexitime models, could not change much. According to the study results, neither the negative social nor the negative health effects of long working hours could be absorbed in this way, even if they were somewhat reduced by the flexitime models.

Taking results into account for future working hours In view of the current results, BauA warns not to overlook the health aspects when discussing further working time extensions. The supposed advantage of longer working hours could have an extremely long-term negative impact on the health of employees and thus also have an unfavorable effect on companies. Because of the increasing negative health consequences, sick leave would increase, wage costs would increase and productivity would decrease overall, according to the BauA warning. An expansion of working hours would, according to the Bundesanstalt, have a lasting negative impact on the health of employees, despite the fact that flexible working times are often used in parallel. (fp)

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