9 Ways Working Long Hours Destroys Your Health

It’s no secret that working too many hours and/or overtime doesn’t make for the happiest of people, but as it turns out, it's also really bad for your health — both psychologically and physically. A new study released Wednesday found that people who work long hours are more prone to alcohol abuse. Those who work 48 hours a week or more who are more likely to consume what researchers call “risky” amounts of alcohol; “14 units per week for a woman and more than 21 for a man.” The study also found that the more you work, the more you tend to drink, with those who work 55 hours or more a week being 12 percent more at risk of overdoing it than those who keep it to a regular 40-hour work week.

So, basically, all those extra hours are literally driving you to drink. (As if you didn't know that already.)

But alcoholism is just the beginning of health issues that can result from working long hours. Here are nine other problems that can arise due to working overtime. And remember: The body and brain need time to rest and regroup. That's why taking breaks throughout the day is paramount to a job productivity, brain productivity, and overall sanity. Don't be afraid to take them!

It Leads To Heart Disease

A 2012 study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found that those who worked more than an eight-hours a day had a 40 to 80 percent greater chance of heart disease, as opposed to those who clocked out when their eight hours was up. These findings were very similar to those of a 2011 study that showed risks of heart disease went up by 67 percent for those who worked an 11 hour day.

It Causes Weight Gain

If you're trying to keep your weight in check, then working long hours is one of the worst things you can do for that goal. When you work too much, you not only pass on the exercising, but any good eating habits you may have once had tend to go out the window. Instead of home-cooked meals, you get take-out, or go to the vending machine for chips to tide you over, or even skip a meal all together. The combination of not eating healthy and not working out is just giving more fuel to your battle of the bulge.

When you’re sitting down at your desk, the rate at which you body burns calories drops to only one calorie a minute. All that sitting leads to reduction in the way insulin handles glucose. Not only are you looking at weight gain, but even increase chances of type 2 diabetes.

It's even worse for those who work the night shift, because going against what's regarded as our fundamental biology to sleep at night and be awake during the day slows down our metabolism. A 2014 study found that those who worked at night burned 52 to 59 less calories than those who work during the day, simply because they were on the night shift.

It Can Lead To Infertility

It might seem strange to think that long hours could contribute to what's going on with your reproductive organs, but it really does. Studies have shown that those who lead a "sedentary lifestyle," as in all those hours sitting at your desk and not working out, have been linked to have lower fertility rates in both men and women.

Getting up from your desk every hour, taking the stairs instead of elevator, and stretching throughout the day will help get things moving.

It Makes You Dumber

According to Tasha Eurich, Ph.D., author of Bankable Leadership, "We actually get stupider when we work too much." It may seem like an exaggeration, but a 2008 study proved her statement to be pretty much true.

The study found that those who worked more than 55 hours a week had "lower scores in the vocabulary test ... long working hours also predicted decline in performance on the reasoning test." Scientists hypothesize that the reason for this may be that long hours cause both “psychological stress and poor recovery” from that stress. This in turn affects the executive function within the brain and memory, attention, and the rate at which information can be processed is hindered.

It Leads To Chronic Insomnia

Not only do long hours interfere with the necessary amount of sleep one needs to function properly, but if your brain is constantly thinking about your job, then it never really rests.

In 2007, Sylvia Ann Hewlett published a piece in the Harvard Business Review about the negative effects that come with being an "extreme worker," and ongoing issues with insomnia was on that list.

It Can Cause Extreme Exhaustion

If you can't sleep at night and you're working long hours, your exhaustion level is going to increase, and ultimately interfere with the relationships in your life, too.

Hewlett also found that exhaustion interfered with the intimate lives of those who work long hours, with 50 percent of these extreme workers being "so depleted and drained when they get home at night that they’re speechless — incapable of conversation."

It (Obviously) Causes Stress

Working long hours can lead to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which of course takes its toll on both the body and brain. When the body is inundated with too much cortisol, the way it's supposed to function goes off course. Glucose in the bloodstream goes up, the immune system gets confused, and growth process in the body is thrown out of whack. This can lead to a wide variety of health problems like depression and anxiety, but also even bigger ones like heart disease. According to the World Heath Organization, America is the most stressed out country.

It Can Cause Depression

A 2012 study found that those who worked 11 hours a day or more were 2.5 times more likely to suffer from depression than those who only had an eight-hour day. These findings remained the same even after researchers looked into other factors such as addiction issues, job strain, and persistent illnesses. Psychiatrist Bryan Bruno at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City has said that the majority of depression cases he deals with are "often related to work stressors."

It Increases Your Risk of Injury

Even if you don't work in an industry that might seem dangerous, the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health has found that the longer hours you work, the more likely your chances of hurting yourself or getting sick or injured on the job. Those who worked 12 hours or more per day have a 37 percent "increased hazard rate," and those who work 60 hours a week have an increase in hazard rate of 23 percent. The Center for Disease Control attributes this to "increased discomfort and deterioration" that comes with just being on the job too long and being wiped out because of it.

It might just be time to take that vacation.

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