Working Too Much?: The Dangers of Being Overworked

The nature of the economy may require Americans to work longer hours in order to make ends meet. Working overtime or taking shift work that requires long days may seem like the best way to combat any financial stress -- or may be necessary to remain employed. However, research shows that working too much can cause workers to become too tired, which can pose both health and safety risks.

In several studies conducted between 1996-2001 among both blue and white collar male workers in Japan and South Korea and reported by John Howard, M.D., Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), extended work shifts and working overtime were shown to lead to hypertension and weight gain, and in studies conducted in Sweden, men and women who were overworked at hospitals had an increased risk of injuries such as cuts, fractures, sprains, and even amputations.

Other potential outcomes of being too tired due to extended working hours include car crashes, digestive problems and increased risk for back and neck disorders. Studies done in the United States have shown that working more than forty hours a week can increase risk for these health problems, even if a person works just one hour a day longer than the standard eight-hour workday. Additionally, nurses who worked longer shifts and extended night shifts were more likely to have an increased use of alcohol and tobacco.

Working too much can also lead to a decrease in concentration, memory recall and alertness, and may increase the risk for fatigue-related errors on the job. A New Zealand study conducted among workers in the medical field showed that more mistakes were made the longer a person was required to work extended hours.The demands of a job can wear down a person's health and, depending on the field, the mistakes made from being too tired can cause injury to the one's self or to others. In particular, tired workers in the medical and aviation fields pose a danger to public safety if they are too tired. Still, every working individual should take a look at how long hours are affecting physical, mental and emotional health, and ask themselves if the job is worth it. If so, it may be a good idea to look into ways of ensuring a good night's rest.Reference URLs: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/workschedules/; http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-143/?
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