Long workhours and health

Scand J Work Environ Health. 2003 Jun;29(3):171-88. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.720.


This paper summarizes the associations between long workhours and health, with special attention for the physiological recovery and behavioral life-style mechanisms that may explain the relationship. The evidence for these mechanisms has not been systematically reviewed earlier. A total of 27 recent empirical studies met the selection criteria. They showed that long workhours are associated with adverse health as measured by several indicators (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, disability retirement, subjectively reported physical health, subjective fatigue). Furthermore, some evidence exists for an association between long workhours and physiological changes (cardiovascular and immunologic parameters) and changes in health-related behavior (reduced sleep hours). Support for the physiological recovery mechanism seems stronger than support for the behavioral life-style mechanism. However, the evidence is inconclusive because many studies did not control for potential confounders. Due to the gaps in the current evidence and the methodological shortcomings of the studies in the review, further research is needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Deprivation / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / physiology*
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / psychology
  • Workload / psychology*