Why working more than 39 hours a week is bad for your health

Peter Terlato 6 February 2017 NEWS

long working hours tired office laptop man

Full-time working women are particularly vulnerable.

Since 1930 international standards have dictated a maximum 48-hour work week but a new Australian study indicates those who exceed 39 hours per week risk damaging their mental and physical health.

New research from the Australian National University (ANU) found the weekly full-time work limit to maintain a healthy life should be capped at 39 hours.

The analysis was based on data from 8,000 Australians as part of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.

The study reveals around two-thirds of Australians, employed full-time, work over 40 hours per week.

Women who work long hours and undertake additional unpaid work at home are particularly vulnerable.

Lead researcher Dr Huong Dinh from the ANU's Research School of Population Health said the healthy work limit for women was 34 hours per week, considering external commitments.

The healthy work limit for men was much higher, up to 47 hours per week.

"Despite the fact that women on average are as skilled as men, women on average have lower paid jobs and less autonomy than men, and they spend much more time on care and domestic work," Dr Dinh said.

"Long work hours erode a person's mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly."

It's not surprising then that data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) last week found expenditure on mental health services has risen steadily over the last few years.

On a more positive note, inflation outpaced living costs during the month of December, meaning working Australians were financially better off last quarter.

In addition to this, the average weekly total cash earnings for Australians was a little over $1,200 in May last year, with managers banking the highest occupational salaries, according to the latest data.

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Picture: Shutterstock

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