Americans have a work problem, crunching in more work hours than other first world countries such as Germany and Sweden. Working a lot sounds great in theory, but in reality is a complex problem. This trend of overworking is almost always accompanied by negative side effects and made worse by the fact that America has a notoriously bad track record with paid vacations, parental leave benefits, laws that prevent overwork, and more.
Popular Science reports that this belief that forces us to work like crazy without caring for our health has a hand in more than 150,000 U.S. deaths each year. The situation is worse in China, where a million deaths are influenced by overworking.
The book Dying for a Paycheck argues that this damaging work culture encourages sedentary lifestyles, insomnia, and stress, all factors that are a blow to your health. While jobs nowadays aren’t literally dangerous—most of us work from an office—they encourage long hours where we’re sitting down, exposed constantly to blue light and stress. The accessibility of our work also complicates matter further, never allowing us to fully separate ourselves from our jobs.
All of these factors damage our health, with The Guardian reporting that more than 13 hours of sitting down doubles our risk of mortality. There’s also a phenomenon called “karoshi” first seen in Japan, where workers literally drop dead from working overtime. A study from European Heart Journal also argues that your heart is particularly influenced by work stress, reporting findings that say that those who work for more than 10 hours a day are more likely to have heart problems than those who work 7 hours or less.
While we all need to look for ways to be more active in our work spaces and to find other activities that bring us some sort of joy, our work culture has to change and citizens need to be protected. There’s not a lot workers can do unless the laws change, and the people responsible take better care of their employees.