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Effective ways to be healthy at work

Reviewed by our expert panel
Effective ways to be healthy at work

More and more research is emerging associating long work hours and job stress with chronic illness, alcohol abuse and over eating, but there are things we can do to be healthier at work.

Long work hours (over 39 hours a week) are thought to interfere with a person’s ability to look after themselves properly and can compromise mental health, according to Australian research reported in The Conversation.

And, the researchers claim, because women typically do the majority of domestic work as well, long hours compromise them further.

Separately, a US study published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found women whose working week averaged 60 hours over 30 years had triple the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

A Journal of the American Medical Association study found women who worked more than 10 years of rotating night shift work had a 15 to 18 per cent increased risk of developing heart disease.

Also, working more than 48 hours per week was associated with risky alcohol consumption in a 2015 study published in the British Medical Journal. The flow-on effects of risky drinking (more than 14 drinks per week for women and 21 for men) are believed to be liver disease, cancer, stroke heart disease and mental disorders.

And people who are stressed out at work are more likely to overeat or make unhealthy food choices at dinnertime, a US study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows.  The good news is the negative effects of stress on eating behaviour were mitigated if study participants got a good night’s sleep.

On a positive note, Canadian researchers found cycling to work can counter some of the effects of stress and may improve productivity.

And, finally, a two-year trial of six-hour working days resulted in happier, more productive staff and fewer sick days at a Swedish resthome.  But the trial ended up costing the home money and was ultimately scrapped.

In the end, most of us can’t cut our work hours back but we can bring a bit of balance back into our daily lives.  First of all, get plenty of sleep. We have great tips for getting a good night’s rest.  The second thing to do is eat well, even when you’re busy.  Here are 20 fabulous work lunches you can make on your break.  And, finally, here is some great advice on how to stay on top of stress.

First published: June 2017

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