On SAGE Insight: Long Working Hours and the Risk of Chronic Disease

From Social Change

A discernible change in trends and nature of occupation and working hours over time has changed the prevalence of disease among people. One’s work environment, especially work stress and characteristics of the job play an important role in the development of a multitude of chronic conditions. It is a serious threat to the health and longevity of a people especially those living in developing countries. Earlier, people were mostly affected by communicable diseases, but recently non-communicable diseases have rapidly increased among all age groups. This may be due to a change in the nature of work as there has been a gradual increase in the tertiary sector made up of a number of jobs that are sedentary in nature. The physical as well as the mental health of people is affected by a change in occupation and the nature of work. According to an International Labour Organization report, globally around 2 million workers are dying annually due to occupational diseases and injuries.

Several studies have identified long working hours as a potential work-related risk factor behind ill health and this has raised some questions about the role of working hours on the health of people. Lower occupational positions are related to poor health and a variety of diseases, such as depression, diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, muscle pain and neck and back pain.

Westernization and industrialization have caused a drastic change in the global work pattern, thereby increasing chances for several health complications. This article assessess the contribution of work history such as the job of respondents, types of occupation, working time and the days in developing chronic conditions. An attempt made to comprehend the existence of co-morbidities correlated with various chronic conditions. Read more


A change in employment trends, in the nature of occupation and in the number of working hours has an impact on the diseases prevalent in people. Using data from a World Health Organization 2007 study on global ageing and adult health, this research looks at the effect of past work histories on the prevalence of selected chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, stroke, angina and depression in India. By using a bivariate and multivariate analysis, this study shows that all the selected chronic diseases were significantly higher in urban areas, especially amongst people who were educated upto a higher secondary level and above and were from the richest wealth quintile. The chances of all these selected chronic diseases, except for depression, were also found to be significantly higher among those who were working in the non-manual sector. It was also found that the expected odds of having diabetes and stroke were significantly higher among those employees who worked for more than eight hours a day than their counterparts who worked for less than eight hours a day after adjusting important confounders. Based on these findings, the study suggests that the government should implement some specific policy measures; and take steps which will help employees cope with harmful work schedules.

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Article details
Long Working Hours and the Risk of Chronic Disease
Anita Pal, Laxmi Kant Dwivedi and Dolly Kumari
First Published March 1, 2018 Research Article
DOI: 10.1177/0049085717743839
Social Change






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