In a massive study spanning 194 countries and accounting for billions of people, the World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled incredible evidence linking as many as 750,000 deaths per year to overwork.
Here’s the scary part: The WHO defines “overwork” as spending more than 55 hours per week on the job. That makes it a very serious issue for employees in industries that experience crunch such as STEM and gaming, and for entrepreneurs who think the key to success is putting in long hours.
Per the study:
In 2016, 488 million people (95% uncertainty range: 472–503 million), or 8.9% (8.6–9.1) of the global population, were exposed to working long hours (≥55 hours/week). An estimated 745,194 deaths (705,786–784,601) and 23.3 million disability-adjusted life years (22.2–24.4) from ischemic heart disease and stroke combined were attributable to this exposure.
The population-attributable fractions for deaths were 3.7% (3.4–4.0) for ischemic heart disease and 6.9% for stroke (6.4–7.5); for disability-adjusted life years they were 5.3% (4.9–5.6) for ischemic heart disease and 9.3% (8.7–9.9) for stroke.
In other words: in 2016 alone, somewhere around 750,000 deaths caused by heart disease or stroke were directly linked to longer working hours.
The scientists found ischemic heart disease and stroke were much more prevalent in workers who averaged more than 55 hours per week than for those who worked “normal” hours of 35-40 hours per week.
That’s a fancy way of saying that crunch literally kills.
Scientists have long warned of the potential dangers to physical and mental health related to overwork, but this is among the few long-term large-scale studies to demonstrate a direct link between these practices and death.
Hot take: You either die a “hard worker” or live long enough to be passed up for promotion.