Sian Claire Owen, medical journalist for Cardio Debate, UK

Working in a noisy environment can negatively impact your heart health, according to recent research from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. In particular, loud workplaces are associated with high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. [1]

The study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, analysed data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey, and found that 25 percent of current workers had ‘a history of noise exposure’. Twenty-four per cent of these had hypertension and 28 per cent had high cholesterol, and 14 per cent and nine percent, respectively, developed these conditions in a noisy workplace. The researchers concluded that reducing noise levels at work is ‘critical’. [1]

If noisy workplaces aren’t damaging enough, putting in those extra hours at the office will also put extra strain on the cardiovascular system. Another study, again published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine showed that working 61 to 70 hours per week increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 42 per cent, and those who worked up to 80 hours were at a staggering 63 per cent increased risk of CHD. [2]

Of course, the link between working long hours and heart disease is well established. In 2015 The Lancet published data showing a link between working long hours and an increased risk of stroke and CHD. [3] And one sector which is notorious for long hours is the medical profession and may lead to “physician burnout”.

Physician burnout – a topic which Cardio-Debate has focused on previously-  [4, 5] not only impacts on health care professionals, but may put patients at risk as well. Cardio Debate editor-in-chief Professor Juan Carlos Kaski, St George’s, University of London writes that: “Burned out physicians are likely to retire early and, in the UK and the US, there is currently a trend among physicians toward early retirement. This can have a serious impact on both the size and the morale of the medical workforce and may also send negative vibrations to younger generations potentially willing to embrace a career in Medicine.” [5] This does not even take into consideration the increased CVD risks associated with working long hours, or environmental conditions such as noise levels.

Across all industries and sectors, employers and governments need to be aware of the proven health risks posed by over-working. In terms of work environments, the European Union has strict regulations concerning workers safety, but the question remains as to whether these regulations will be in place post-Brexit. Studies such as these discussed in the present article must be kept in mind when restructuring British law once we leave the European Union.