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Ever wonder what late hours at the office are doing to your health? Aside from losing personal time off to spend with your friends and family, the added stress because of working long hours has been found to affect your heart. In 2017, the European Heart Journal published a multi-cohort study that focused on atrial fibrillation and its correlation with long work weeks or hours.
Atrial Fibrillation: Definition
Atrial fibrillation (abbreviated as AFib or AF) is a type of heartbeat irregularity that places person at risk for blood clot, strokes, and even heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, over 2,700,000 Americans are affected by this species of arrhythmia. While some people may report symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or feeling of weakness, other people do not report any symptoms at all. The latter part is most worrying because people often do not seek medical attention if they do not feel any symptoms. Often, when people do seek medical attention, their condition has already worsened. 
Afib And Long Work Weeks
In a prospective multi-cohort study with more than 85,000 participants, researchers Kivimaki, et. al. focused on the risk factors associated with long work hours after a ten-year period. There was a 12.4 percent incidence of atrial fibrillation diagnosed after the ten-year follow up; exactly 1061 of the participants were diagnosed with AFib. Out of these cases, 71.4 percent were diagnosed before the age of 65, the age wherein the risk factors for heart disease start to go up exponentially. Taking another look at the statistics, out of people diagnosed with AFib, only 10.2 percent had preexisting cardiovascular disease. The rest had no preexisting condition (86.7%). 
There were 5.2 percent of participants who worked more than or equal to 55 hours per week, exactly 4484 participants. 62.5 percent worked 35 to 40 hours per week, which was the baseline. Correlating the percentages of AFib incidences and participants who worked long hours, analysis revealed a 1.4-fold increase in cardiovascular risk for AFib compared to participants who worked the standard 35 to 40 hours per week. That’s a 40 percent increase in risk, moderate according to the researchers since the risk was small in the first place, but quite important for people suffering from preexisting conditions that already increase their chances of cardiovascular disease.
Another statistic to mention is the 86.7 percent of participants who developed AFib did not have a preexisting heart condition or risk. This means that there was a direct correlation between long work week hours and the development of atrial fibrillation. Of course, the researchers recognized the study’s limitations, such as the kind of occupation and that the data was only collected once. However, the data retrieved from the study is still important, and warrants further research on how our work habits and developing risk for heart disease.
Other studies have found similar results: Skogstad, et. al. published a recent study in 2019 that linked rotating shift work to an increased risk for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries that surround the heart. The study concluded that shift work, meaning people who worked days and nights, was associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors compared to people who worked purely during the day. They proposed that preventive measures should be done on people who do shift work in order to prevent cardiovascular disease. 
In 2018, Uchida and Morita focused on the effects of long work hours and depression among Japanese white-collar workers. Because of inconsistent results of studies that focus on work hours and mental health, the researchers focused on other factors. While results did reveal a link between long work hours and depression, the results were more significant when correlated with work control and social support than long work hours. A Chinese study had similar results, wherein the researchers were able to find a direct link between long working hours and job stress to depression among worker.  
For some, adjusting work hours can be difficult because of financial difficulties (since more work put in during the week means more money). However, the studies that do link long work hours with health issues mean that preventive measures need to be taken if a person is indeed at risk due to their working conditions. Healthy diet and exercise are among the various ways you can do to help prevent cardiovascular disease, as well as avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking alcohol.
 American Heart Association. What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)? https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/what-is-atrial-fibrillation-afib-or-af
 Kivimaki, M., et. al. (2017). Long working hours as a risk factor for atrial fibrillation: a multi-cohort study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5837794/
 Skogstad, M., et. al. (2019). Shift Work Including Night Work and Long Working Hours in Industrial Plants Increases the Risk of Atherosclerosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30759884
 Uchida, M. & Morita, H. (2018). Association between long work hours and depressive state: a pilot study of propensity score matched Japanese white-collar workers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29269603
 Li, Z., et. al. (2018). [Association between Long Working Hours and Job Stress and Depression among Employees from a State Grid Company]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29996248
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