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Working long hours raises women’s risk of cancer, heart disease: study

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Columbus, OH – Women who work long hours for most of their career are at a higher risk of developing cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases, according to a study from Ohio State University.

As part of the study, researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 to examine 7,500 people who worked for 32 years. They compared hours worked to prevalence of heart disease, non-skin cancer, arthritis, diabetes, chronic lung disease, asthma, chronic depression and high blood pressure.

Results showed that working an average of at least 60 hours per week for more than 30 years triples women’s risk of developing diabetes, cancer, heart issues and arthritis. Risk escalated when women worked more than 40 hours per week and became severe at more than 50 hours per week.

In comparison, the risk of arthritis increased for men who worked long hours, but the risk of chronic diseases did not.

Female workers tend to handle more family responsibilities than men, and deal with increased pressure and stress, researchers stated in a university press release.

“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,” Allard Dembe, lead study author and professor of health services management and policy at the university’s College of Public Health, said in the release. “People don’t think that much about how their early work experiences affect them down the road. Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s are setting themselves up for problems later in life.”

The researchers recommend that employers offer flexible hours at work, health coaching and health screenings to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases among female workers.

The study was published online June 14 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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