A healthy work limit is 39 hours per week, study shows

February 2, 2017 by Will Wright
Professor Lyndall Strazdins. Credit: Stuart Hay, ANU

People who work more than 39 hours a week are putting their health at risk, new research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found.

The research shows the work limit for a should be set at 39 hours a week instead of the 48-hour-week limit set internationally about 80 years ago.

Lead researcher Dr Huong Dinh from the ANU Research School of Population Health said about two in three Australians in full-time employment worked more than 40 hours a week, with long hours a bigger problem for women who do more at home.

"Long work hours erode a person's mental and physical , because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly," Dr Dinh said.

For women, Dr Dinh said the healthy work limit was 34 hours per week once their other commitments were considered. The healthy work limit for men was up to 47 hours a week generally because they spend much less time on care or domestic work than women.

"Despite the fact that women on average are as skilled as men, women on average have lower paid jobs and less autonomy than men, and they spend much more time on care and domestic work," Dr Dinh said.

"Given the extra demands placed on women, it's impossible for to work long hours often expected by employers unless they compromise their health."

The research used data from about 8,000 Australian adults as part of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey.

Co-researcher Professor Lyndall Strazdins from the ANU Research School of Population Health said Australia needed to resolve some of the bigger problems that affect work and home life balance.

"Australia needs to do more to change attitudes to work and to support men to take time to care without penalty or prejudice. Australians also need to dispel the widespread belief that people need to long hours to do a good job," she said.

Explore further: 1 in 5 people don't have time to look after their health

More information: Huong Dinh et al. Hour-glass ceilings: Work-hour thresholds, gendered health inequities, Social Science & Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.01.024

Related Stories

1 in 5 people don't have time to look after their health

November 28, 2016
One in five people aged 25 to 54 years old don't have time to exercise and eat healthy food, a new study led by ANU has found.

Going home on time can benefit workers' health

November 18, 2014
Public health researchers at the University of Adelaide say office workers can benefit themselves and their families by going home on time as much as possible, to reduce work-related illness.

Working women more likely to gain weight

July 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Middle-aged women who spend long hours working are more at risk of gaining weight, according to a new study.

Recommended for you

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.