Project 060

Project Title:

Worked to death? An analysis of the relationship between the numbers of hours spent working, current health status and mortality risk.


Dr Dermot O’Reilly and Dr Michael Rosato


Queens University Belfast, Centre for Public Health



Project Summary:

There is a wealth of research literature showing the salutogenic effects of employment and the deleterious effects of unemployment and threats of unemployment. However, the potentially harmful effects of excessive working have not been studied in Westernised Societies to date.

 In contrast both the Japanese and Chinese have a word (‘karoshi’, ‘guolaosi respectively) for death due to overwork and this is an official cause of death for which the government pays compensation.

Issues surrounding long working hours may be of particular importance to workers in the UK who work longer hours than most other countries in Europe, and this may have adverse health consequences, in terms of stress, disruption to work-life balance and exposure to work-related hazards etc. On the other hand, it could be argued that longer working might also be beneficial, in that work offers a structured environment, companionship and so forth.

This study aims to look at the effects of long working hours recorded in the census on subsequent mortality risk and likelihood of death from specific causes.

Publications to date:

O'Reilly, D. and Rosato, M. (2013) Worked to death? A census-based longitudinal study of the relationship between the numbers of hours spent working and mortality risk.  International Journal of Epidemiology, doi: 10.1093/ije/dyt211


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