A new study out of Canada appears to show that working overtime can have some pretty serious consequences on workers’ health. The Canadian study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension, found that working more than 35 hours a week was associated with an increased likelihood of having high blood pressure. The more hours worked, the more the risk increased.
The Canadian research team enlisted more than 3,500 white-collar employees at three public institutions in Quebec for a five-year study that tracked their working hours and blood pressure readings. Average resting readings at or above 140/90 mmHg, and average working readings at or above 135/85, were considered high. After controlling for variables including job strain, age, sex, education level, occupation, smoking status, body mass index, and other health factors, the researchers found that office workers working longer hours had a substantially increased risk of high blood pressure.
Overall, almost 19 percent of the workers had sustained hypertension, while more than 13 percent of the workers had masked hypertension, meaning their high blood pressure readings are normal during health care visits but elevated when measured elsewhere. Working 49 or more hours each week was linked to a 70 percent greater chance of having masked hypertension and a 66 percent higher likelihood of having sustained hypertension when compared with those who worked fewer than 35 hours a week. Working between 41 and 48 hours each week was linked to a 54 percent greater chance of having masked hypertension and 42 percent greater likelihood of having sustained hypertension.
According to the study authors, nearly half of Americans aged 18 and older have high blood pressure, while about 15 to 30 percent of U.S. adults have masked hypertension. The conditions are associated with more than 82,000 deaths per year. There were some limitations to the study, including the study’s measurement of blood pressure only during daytime hours, and the omission of hours worked outside participants’ primary job. The study also did not include blue-collar workers, so the findings may not apply to manual workers, or people who work shifts.