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Working Just Two Hours Overtime A Day Could Increase Stroke Risk

There's a new reason to go home from work on time.

About 13 percent of working Australians clock up 50 hours a week or more at work but a number of studies released recently tell us these long hours can be bad for our health.

A French study published on July 1 assessed more than 143,000 participants and found those working days of 10 hours or more, for more than 50 days each year, have a 29 percent increased risk of stroke.

Stroke
People who work long hours have an increased chance of stroke. Photo: Getty Images.

Another study published in Britain in 2015 also linked long work hours to stroke. People who worked 40-55 hours a week compared to the regular 35-40 hours were found to be at greater risk of stroke.

Stroke Foundation Australia Clinical Council Chair Professor Bruce Campbell told 10 daily the recent French research highlights the need for Australians to balance work with a healthy lifestyle.

"Working long hours can increase blood pressure, stress and inactivity levels, which we know can negatively affect cardiovascular health," Campbell said.

READ MORE: Stroke In A Can? New Study Has Some Pretty Dire Findings About Soft Drinks

Stroke
A healthy lifestyle can reduce stroke risk. Photo: Getty Images.

In 2019, there will be 56,000 new and recurrent strokes -- that's one stroke every nine minutes. Stroke is also a leading killer and cause of disability in Australia, but four out of every five can be prevented by people ensuring they are leading a healthy lifestyle.

This includes not spending too much time at work or feeling stressed.

"More than 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by managing blood pressure and cholesterol, eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising, not smoking and only drinking in moderation.”

Becoming familiar with the F.A.S.T test can significantly reduce the impact of stroke on someone's life by encouraging others around them to act quickly.

Stroke FAST
The F.A.S.T test to detect a stroke. Photo: Stroke Foundation Australia.
What Parts Of Work Can Make Us Sick?

Both long hours at work and shift work can have significant impacts on worker health.

Shift work, especially night shifts, can disrupt the circadian rhythm -- the natural 'body clock' that determines sleep and wake.

While working during the day may not impact circadian rhythm as much, long hours can lead workers to feeling overtired and burnt out.

"A similarity between the two is that long work hours result in spillover effect into our lives,"  Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Bond University Business School Dr. Libby Sander told 10 daily.

"So we are most likely to make poor eating choices, to have less time and energy for relationships and that leads to conflict in our relationships and can affect our sleep as well."

Shift Work
Working late or on night shifts can impact a worker's health. Photo: Getty Images.

The Stoke Foundation lists a number of lifestyle factors as leading causes of stroke including smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity. The occurrence of these can be linked to a number of factors, including long hours spent at work.

READ MORE: A Single Alcoholic Drink A Day Increases Stroke Risk, Study Finds

Why Are We Working More?

A combination of guilt, lack of job security and concern with automation are behind people working longer hours.

Workers are concerned their job may be replaced by machines in the future and others are simply failing to make ends meet with the casualisation of the workforce, and the rise of the gig economy.

"We have had low wage growth in Australia for a long time ... and people actually have less hours than they want," Sander said.

Shift Work
Workers might not have as many hours as they want. Photo: Getty Images.

"...[workers] might be trying to start a business in the evening or they might be working in the gig economy to earn extra money."

The global and digital nature of work also has a lot to answer for. Workers are likely to take conference calls outside of work hours to communicate with colleagues in international offices or spend their 'downtime' responding to emails.

"People are feeling obliged to respond," Sander told 10 daily.

"Even if they are just going home and not working continuously ... they are still checking their phone or responding to an email, so they are not actually switching off at the end of the day."

Work Stress
Often workers don't switch off after leaving the office for the day. Photo: Getty Images.
How Can We Reduce The Risk Of Work-Related Illness?

Communicating with your boss about hours and workload is one way to manage how much work seeps into outside life. Making a conscious effort to establish personal boundaries is another.

"As hard as it may be, say you are not responding to emails in the evening," Sander said.

There's also a number of things workers can do at work ... like pimping their desks. Tapping into what's called biophilia hypothesis -- the human tendency to connect with nature -- could make hours spent at work less stressful.

Plants
Pimp the workplace with some plants. Photo: Getty Images.

"Plants in the workplace, natural light ... are hugely important and the employee can certainly personalise their desk, bring in pot plants and art."

Of course, workers are advised to monitor their health and see a medical professional or speak to their manager if they have concerns related to their wellbeing.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au