Women who invest more hours to their work are more likely to suffer from life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
Work weeks that averaged 60 hours or more over three decades appear to triple the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart trouble and arthritis for women, according to new research from The Ohio State University.
The risk begins to climb when women put in more than 40 hours and takes a decidedly bad turn above 50 hours, researchers found.
"Women - especially women who have to juggle multiple roles - feel the effects of intensive work experiences and that can set the table for a variety of illnesses and disability," said Allard Dembe, professor of health services management and policy and lead author of the study, published online this week in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
"People don't think that much about how their early work experiences affect them down the road," he said. "Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s are setting themselves up for problems later in life."
Women tend to take on the lion's share of family responsibility and may face more pressure and stress than men when they work long hours, previous research shows. On top of that, work for women may be less satisfying because of the need to balance work demands with family obligations, Dembe said.
Employers and government regulators should be aware of the risks, especially to women who are required to regularly toil beyond a 40-hour work week, he said. Companies benefit in terms of quality of work and medical costs when their workers are healthier, Dembe said.
More scheduling flexibility and on-the-job health coaching, screening and support could go a long way toward reducing the chances employees become sick or die as a result of chronic conditions, he said.
"It could make a difference," Dembe said. "You might still be working hard, but the fact that it's your choice might help you stay healthier," medindia reports.topics from