Article: Long work hours & sitting reasons for 4% deaths globally: Report

Life @ Work

Long work hours & sitting reasons for 4% deaths globally: Report

The worst fears about how our life at work is impacting our health have proven to be true in a recent report.
Long work hours & sitting reasons for 4% deaths globally: Report

Yup, you read that right. One in every 25 deaths worldwide can be attributed to the sedentary lifestyle that has become all too common. And if you think the odds are in your favour, just ask yourself the question, how long do you keep sitting in your chair at a stretch? If the answer is anything over 3 hours, as calculated by the study, it’s time to make a change.

What is the report?

A report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, talks about a study done of data collected in 54 countries from 2002 to 2011. Among the territories included were Western Pacific, European Countries, Eastern Mediterranean, America and Southeast Asia. The study sought to know more about the population-attribution fraction for all-cause mortality associated with sitting time (or in other words, how many deaths were caused by long stretches of sitting), and the gains in life expectancy related to the elimination of this risk factor (or, in other words, how much can we mitigate the damage, and by how much).

What were the results?

The report states that 3.8% of all deaths, or roughly 433,000 deaths per year, happened due to a long sitting time. The mortality was higher in countries from Western Pacific regions, followed by European, Eastern Mediterranean, American, and Southeast Asian countries. A few countries fared as follows:

Highest Mortality Rates due to sitting:

  • Lebanon (11.6%)
  • The Netherlands (7.6%)
  • Denmark (6.9%)


Lowest Mortality Rates due to sitting:

  • Mexico (0.6%)
  • Myanmar (1.3%)
  • Bhutan (1.6%)


The report deduced that over 60% of the people worldwide spent more than three hours sitting down – the average came out to be 4.7 hours. The authors of the study also calculated that reducing the amount of sitting time by nearly two hours, would result in a 2.3% decrease in mortality (meaning, three times lesser deaths). Even a small reduction, by 10% (half an hour a day) could reduce mortality by 0.6%. “It is important to minimize sedentary behaviour in order to prevent premature deaths around the world,” said the lead author of the study Leandro Rezende from University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. He added “cutting down on the amount of time we sit could increase life expectancy by 0.20 years in the countries analyzed.”

Why is it important?

The research has quantified what was largely assumed until now. You now have reason – backed by research – to make sure that you keep yourself physically active during office hours. It might also explain the many non-communicable diseases that are on the rise today, which will impact our health chronically. If you are still looking for an excuse to justify your habit of not leaving your desk for hours together, you are literally trading your health and well-being for something that probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and that too willingly doing so. If you are shocked by the number 433,000 (we know we are) and want to make a change, we have you covered. Employers, pay attention, because if you don’t deal with this right away, you will end up with a severely unwell workforce.

How do I make a change?

As the report suggests, the negative impact of the ‘chair effect’ (coined by the authors of the study) can be reduced or eliminated altogether, and even the slightest of change will go on to lessen the risk. Take your pick from the thousands of quick and easy workout sessions you can do at your office and start slow. Pick a buddy, who is serious about his or her health as well, and work together to beat the odds. If you can’t zero in on anybody, use technology – it won’t judge you or give you the look. Get an app to remind you to get up and walk around, stretch, do a mini-exercise, to keep you hydrated or whatever suits you. They literally are available by the dozen – so what’s stopping you?

The Bottom-Line

It would be fitting to end with a ‘Health is Wealth’ cliché, but here’s another thought: Health is better than wealth. As long as you are well and able, you have the opportunity to achieve greatness, but once your health gives up on you – no insurance cover, no matter how comprehensive or handsome, can begin to take care of you, your aspiration, and your potential. 

I shouldn’t really have to make such a strong case to push you to take care of your own self – So get up, stretch and make a change!

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Topics: Life @ Work, Watercooler

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