The survey respondents were between 18 and 64 years of age and worked at least 11 hours a week. Each was asked over the telephone about his or her work schedule. After compensating for factors such as smoking, race, gender, diabetes, education and income, the scientists reported their findings in the October issue of Hypertension, Journal of the American Heart Association, and it was discovered that: Compared to people who work a regular work week (defined as 39 hours or less) people who work for 40 hours a week had a 14 percent increased risk and those that worked more than 50 hours a week were 17 percent more at risk for high blood pressure; unskilled workers had a 50 percent increased risk of high blood pressure over professionals; and clerical workers had a 30 percent greater risk of high blood pressure than professionals.
Previous studies of Japanese workers linked some sudden deaths to overwork, leading authorities to impose limits on overtime in the country. According to Dr. Haiou Yang, Ph.D., and his colleagues, the European Union allows no more than a 48-hour workweek maximum while the United States has no laws to limit overtime work.
"Despite long-standing and widespread agreement that work hours should be limited, preventing excessive overtime remains a pressing issue for the United States," the researchers said, adding that the numbers were probably higher, since hypertension is a mostly silent disease and the survey relied on self-reported evidence.
"This study describes the correlation but not the cause of hypertension," explained Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate. "The likely factors responsible for this harmful effect include lack of exposure to sunlight and fresh air, nutrient depletion due to chronic stress, and poor eating habits of those in work environments that offer limited access to healthy food options," he said.