July 4, 2016
A new study by The Ohio State University reveals that long work hours for women are linked to alarming increases in cancer, heart disease and the early development of other chronic, life-threatening illnesses. Women who put in extra hours for the bulk of their careers – with work weeks that average 60 hours or more over three decades – may end up paying a huge price. In fact, those women are thought by scientists to be tripling their risk of diabetes, cancer, heart trouble and arthritis.
According to researchers at The Ohio State University, the risk starts to increase when women put in more than 40 hours per week at work – but the risks increase steeply when they work more than 50 hours. Allard Dembe, professor of health services management and policy, stated: “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. 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 study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, explains that men with tough work schedules are less affected. That determination was made after analyzing data from interviews with almost 7,500 people. This is thought to be because women tend to take on most of the responsibilities at home, and therefore face more pressure and stress than men when they work long hours. Because of this difficult balance between work demands and family obligations, work for women may also be less satisfying than it is for men.
What does this mean for working women?
According to The Ohio State University, employers and government regulators should be aware of these risks, especially for women who are required to work more than 40 hours per week. It is important that companies realize that they will benefit more in terms of work quality and output when women are healthier and happier.
More scheduling flexibility, health screening and support have been suggested as being crucial to reducing the chances of employees becoming sick as a result of chronic conditions that develop from years of overwork.
Workers who put in more hours face more stress, and have more sleep problems and digestive trouble – making them more fatigued. This affects their work performance and their health. In the study, a surprising minority of full-time workers put in fewer than 40 hours a week.
Ways to look after your health
If you are a woman working more than 40 hours a week, who simply cannot cut down on her hours, there are changes you can make to your diet that will help to improve your overall health and reduce your likelihood of developing these illnesses. Try incorporating more of the following anti-cancer foods into your diet:
- Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, garlic, cabbage and onions. These protect your DNA from damage, because they contain glucosinolates that optimize cellular functions.
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale. These veggies contain the powerful antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin that are key to cancer prevention.
- Lentils and chickpeas. These provide calcium, iron and B vitamins which are associated with reduced breast cancer risk.
- Foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, watermelon and papaya. This antioxidant has also been associated with reduced cancer risk.
A healthy diet and plenty of exercise are key to preventing and treating many diseases. So, if you really can’t cut back on your hours, make sure you pay closer attention to what you eat, and get active!