Women Who Work Long Hours May Die Sooner

So we live longer, but less healthier than men.  And now a new study says women's long work hours are linked to alarming increases in cancer and heart disease, according to newswise.com.

And it's not just the workaholics who toil for 60 or 70 hours a week.  It's those of us who work 40 hours, as well.

Women who put in long hours for the bulk of their careers may pay a steep price: 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,” says 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.”

Men with tough work schedules appeared to fare much better, found the researchers, who analyzed data from interviews with almost 7,500 people who were part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

So let's get back to the juggling.  When I first started working, back in the late '70s, most successful career women weren't married and certainly had no children.  I used to feel sorry for them, on what they were missing out on in life.

But today, a juggler myself, I see how, in some ways, their lives were pretty easy.  They didn't have to work, listen to a husband's boring stories about his day at work and run a child back and forth to school, all pretty much at the same time.  

As much as men have started to help around the house, let's face it.  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 says.

So what's the answer?  Researchers suggest 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 adds. Companies benefit in terms of quality of work and medical costs when their workers are healthier, Dembe points out.

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.

And if you think that's going to happen anytime soon, I have a bridge to sell you.


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