26 July 2011

Long Working Hours

A recent medical article (M. Kivimäki, G.D. Batty, M. Hamer, J.E. Ferrie, J. Vahtera, M. Virtanen, M.G. Marmot, A. Singh-Manoux, and M.J. Shipley, “Using additional information on working hours to predict coronary heart disease: a cohort study.,” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 154, Apr. 2011, pp. 457-63.) concludes that
Long working hours are associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease.
Not terribly surprising. Long working hours → more stress → heart disease. But limiting your work hours is sometimes easier in principle than practice. Sure there are some jobs where at the end of the day you can shut down your computer (or lay down your broom/stethoscope/AK47), turn off the lights and head home. Then there are others where you just cannot avoid hanging around until the late hours (computer jocks tend to specialise in these). Then there are the more insidious jobs, where you are nominally not working but at some level there is always some work related activity going on. I regularly wake up to take a leak in the middle of the night and find myself standing there thinking about one problem or another. Don't misunderstand me: I engage in this midnight piddle pondering because I enjoy what I do. But these are hours which are pretty hard to log on a timesheet. And I hate to think that they are hurting my health.

So, if you are working too long and too hard, what signs should you look out for? Here are some I found in an article in Discovery Magazine:
  1. dizziness, aches and pains, racing heart, tinnitus, unexplained weight gain/loss, difficulty sleeping;
  2. constant worry, difficulty making decisions, forgetfulness, poor concentration, lack of creativity, no sense of humour;
  3. anger, anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, loneliness, negative thoughts;
  4. compulsive eating, critical attitude, explosive actions, social withdrawal, alchohol or drug abuse.
Disturbingly, I can tick off a whole whack of those. Should I be worried? Or can running offset the damage?

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