The eight-hour work day is becoming obsolete, as companies pressure employees for “productivity”—that is, long work days. But employees ‘may pay the ultimate price for overworking, a new British study finds. Researchers followed more than 7,000 healthy, middle-aged U.K. government employees for roughly 12 years and discovered that those who reported clocking 11-hour days had a 67 percent higher risk of heart attack than those who logged a more moderate 7 to 8 hours. Ten-hour workdays produced a 45 percent higher risk. “This study might make us think twice about the old adage ‘hard work won’t kill you,” ’ Stephen Holgate, a chairman at Britain’s Medical Research Council, tells Reuters.com.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly how overtime harms the heart— or whether it simply contributes to other risk factors like unhealthful eating, failing to exercise, stress, depression, and lack of sleep. Clearly, though—just like blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking—work habits are a predictor of heart health. Doctors should start asking patients: “How many hours do you work?” says researcher Mika Kivimaki of University College London. “Our research presents a strong case that it should become standard practice.”