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The Surprising Way Working Long Hours At the Office Impacts Your Health

 

In today's crazy busy culture, it seems like all of our brunch conversations end up turning into humble brags about how many hours we clocked at the office that week. Not cool. But aside from the twisted social capital you get from constantly being soo busy at work, making a habit of working long hours is bad for more than just your social life. In fact, it seriously ups your risk of diseases like diabetes and cancer, according to a new study from Ohio State University. (And make sure you check out these Two New Reasons You Seriously Need to Find a Work/Life Balance.)

The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, examined how habitually putting in long hours (we're talking 60-plus hours a week) would impact overall health and longevity in a group of women. The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which includes interviews with over 12,000 adults born between 1957 and 1964. They specifically looked at how time spent in the office impacted risk of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer over a 32-year period.

The results weren't great. The researchers found that anything over 40 hours a week starts to up your risk, but things get really bad when you begin making a habit of logging 50-hour work weeks. By the time women hit an average of 60 hours a week, the risk of these diseases triples—meaning a lot of us are setting ourselves up for serious health problems by establishing a pattern of hustling too hard in our twenties and thirties.

Interestingly, men don't seem to experience the same adverse health effects from staying late or working weekends over the course of their careers. According to the researchers, this disparity probably has something to do with the pressures women face outside of the office; balancing the lion's share of family care and household responsibilities as well as an ongoing battle for equal pay makes a woman's relationship with the workplace different (read: more stressful) than a man's. (Did you know Overweight Men Score Larger Salaries While Women Must Slim Down for Fatter Paychecks?) This added environmental stress is likely a big player in the adverse health outcomes, say the study authors.

We're all about hustling hard to crush your career goals, but the research underscores the importance of establishing a satisfying work/life balance. Consider this your excuse to cut out of work at a decent hour to make it to spin class or unplug your smartphone during your weekend yoga and meditation session.

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