NUGGET : Overworked: Regular extra hours in the office can lead to angina or heart attacks, according to a study.
Working long hours dramatically increases the risk of suffering a fatal heart attack by up to 60 per cent, a study has found.
People who regularly do overtime – shifts longer than a seven-hour day – are more prone to heart disease, angina and heart attacks.
Those who work between three and four hours extra a day are most at risk – just one or two hours more had no effect.
The study tracked 6,000 British civil servants aged between 39 and 61 for an average of 11 years.
Overall, there were 369 cases of people suffering heart disease that caused death, had a heart attack or developed angina, says a report published online in the European Heart Journal.
Working overtime was linked to a 56 per cent to 60 per cent increased risk.
Study leader Marianna Virtanen, an epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki and University College London, said factors such as smoking, being overweight or having high cholesterol could not explain the extra risk.
‘More research is needed before we can be confident overtime work would cause heart disease,’ she added.
She said possible reasons for the raised risk include undiagnosed high blood pressure, stress, anxiety or depression and being a ‘Type A’ personality who is highly driven, aggressive or irritable.
Employees who work overtime may also be likely to work while ill, the experts said.
Similarly, those who get too little sleep or have ‘insufficient time’ for winding down after work may also be at higher risk.
Professor Gordon McInnes, of Glasgow University’s Western Infirmary, said the findings had significant implications.
He added: ‘If the effect is truly causal, the importance is much greater than commonly recognised.
‘Overtime-induced work stress might contribute to a substantial proportion of cardiovascular disease.
‘Doctors should pay attention to the hours worked by patients who have symptoms such as chest pain and they may need closer monitoring.’
Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, said: ‘Although the researchers showed a link, the reasons weren’t clear.
‘The researchers suggest a number of reasons – these may affect the mechanisms that cause heart disease.
‘But it could simply be that working long hours means we’ve less time to look after ourselves.
‘If we’re stuck in the office we’ve less time to relax, get a good night’s sleep, and take enough physical activity, all of which have been found to help reduce stress levels and protect against heart disease.’
She added: ‘Until researchers understand how our working lives can affect the risk to our heart health, there are simple ways to look after your heart health at work.
‘These include taking a brisk walk at lunch, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or by swapping that biscuit for a piece of fruit.’