Study: Long Work Hours Triple Women’s Risk Of Life Threatening Chronic Illnesses
Those of you in or recently out of residency will relate to this one: Long work hours over three decades or more significantly increase the incidence of severe, life threatening chronic diseases among women.
That’s according to a recent study by Xiaoxi Yao, Ph.D., with the Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery at the Mayo Clinic and Allard Dembe, of Ohio State University: Long work hours – that is, work weeks that were significantly longer than a baseline 30-40 hour work week – were associated with a significant increase in risk of heart disease, cancers other than skin cancer, diabetes and arthritis. This was true for both sexes, though the effects were particularly pronounced for women.
The study looked at the health effects of long working hours over careers of 30 years or more, and found that women who put in long work hours – as much as 50 or 60 hours per week or more – actually triple the risk of contracting life-threatening illnesses by age 50.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Men fared much better, health wise, after many years of long work hours, who based their results on interviews with approximately 7,500 subjects who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1979. Researchers found that the men who had extraordinarily long workweeks over decades had higher than baseline rates of arthritis, but not of any of the other chronic diseases they looked for. Indeed, men who worked moderately long hours – between 40 and 50 hours per week – had moderately lower incidents of heart disease, compared to those who worked fewer than 40 hours per week. It was women who bore the overwhelming brunt of the long-term health consequences.
Researchers attributed part of the difference to greater family responsibilities of women on top of their career demands, as well as the possibility that work for women may have been less intrinsically satisfying for the individuals questioned.
The study largely confirms previous research that found that those with very demanding work schedules experience greater rates of digestive disorders and sleep disorders and experience greater levels of fatigue.
To arrive at the findings, researchers averaged number of hours worked each week over a period of 32 years, and compared the number of hours worked to the incidences of non-skin cancers, arthritis, rheumatism, diabetes, high blood sugar, chronic lung diseases including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, high blood pressure and depression.
The study focused on relatively early onset incidents of chronic disease. As the population ages, it could come to pass that we find that the longer-term health consequences of extremely long work hours are more profound than we can establish today.
“The early onset and identification of chronic diseases may not only reduce individuals’ life expectancy and quality of life, but also increase health care costs in the long term,” wrote the paper’s authors, Allard E. Dembe and Xiaoxi Yao.
For further reading, see: Allard E. Dembe, Xiaoxi Yao. Chronic Disease Risks From Exposure to Long-Hour Work Schedules Over a 32-Year Period. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Naturally, any professional who works long hours at any job over many years should have a robust plan to provide for income security for themselves and for their family members in the case of death or disability. The data show that this is particularly critical for women embarking on a demanding medical career, or even those in mid-career.
The data can also help explain why disability insurance premiums are frequently higher for women than for a similarly situated man: The combination of the greater vulnerability of career women to chronic diseases, plus the possibility of disability due to pregnancy or childbirth, eventually shows up in the claims experiences of insurance companies, translating into higher premiums.
The answer is to lock in needed disability and life insurance as soon as possible, while you are still reasonably young and healthy and before the precursors or symptoms of severe chronic illnesses get a chance to show up. This both saves premiums, helps you get coverage at affordable rates, and helps ensure that you will be able to qualify for coverage in the first place: If you wait too long, your medical condition could cause your premiums to rise, or make it impossible to get coverage at any price.
Additionally, the study underscores the importance – particularly for women – of taking care of their physical and mental health, via prudent eating habits and regular physical activity, even as they manage challenging careers and family responsibilities.
To lock in disability insurance coverage today, give DoctorDisability.com a call today at 866-899-7318. Or use our online quote engine at our website.
We look forward to working with you!