Flexible work hours can make your heart 10 years younger

BOSTON — Flexible working hours may reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 10 years compared to the traditional 9-5 routine, according to a new study. Researchers found that modifying office hours allowed some workers to lower their cardiovascular risk to a level typically seen among people five to 10 years younger than them.

Employees over 45 and those with a higher risk of heart disease experienced the most significant benefits from this shift in their work schedules, according to the experiment conducted by a team from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Penn State University. Other staff members also enjoyed a reduced risk of heart disease.

This study involved participants from an IT company employing high-tech workers participated in the study, along with a caregiving company employing low-wage caregivers. Supervisors received training to support their employees’ personal lives as well as their job performance. Employees attended training sessions with their superiors, focusing on enhancing staff control over their schedules and tasks.

“The study illustrates how working conditions are important social determinants of health,” says co-lead author Lisa Berkman, the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School, in a media release.

“When stressful workplace conditions and work-family conflict were mitigated, we saw a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease among more vulnerable employees, without any negative impact on their productivity. These findings could be particularly consequential for low- and middle-wage workers who traditionally have less control over their schedules and job demands and are subject to greater health inequities.”

office mistake
(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

The research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, is one of the first to investigate the relationship between a patient’s professional life and heart disease. In the study, 555 high and moderately-paid male and female technical workers participated from the IT company. Another 973 predominantly female, low-wage caregivers from the long-term care company joined the experiment.

Random units from the two companies were selected to participate, while the rest continued with business as usual, serving as the control group.

Overall, researchers measured the health of the 1,528 participants at the study’s commencement and again 12 months later, recording systolic blood pressure, BMI, glycated hemoglobin, smoking status, and cholesterol levels. They calculated each individual’s cardiometabolic risk score (CRS), where a higher score indicates greater disease risk.

The researchers noted no “significant” overall impact on participants’ CRS due to workplace interventions. However, there was a noticeable reduction in CRS among those with a higher baseline risk of cardiovascular disease.

Participants who saw a reduction experienced a decrease in their CRS equivalent to becoming 5.5 to 10.3 years younger in health terms. Staff members over the age of 45 with a higher CRS saw the most significant improvements.

“The intervention was designed to change the culture of the workplace over time with the intention of reducing conflict between employees’ work and personal lives and ultimately improving their health,” concludes co-lead author Orfeu Buxton, professor of biobehavioral health and director of the Sleep, Health & Society Collaboratory at Penn State.

“Now we know such changes can improve employee health and should be more broadly implemented.”

You might also be interested in:

South West News Service writer Pol Allingham contributed to this report.

YouTube video


Comments are closed.