A recent survey has found that Hong Kong had the longest working hours in the world. But what are the consequences of such long hours on your health?
You are not getting enough sleep
First of all, as people working in the SAR tend to spend a lot of time in the office, many of them simply don't have enough time to rest from work. And because Hong Kong is known to be an extremely dynamic city, many expatriates have a very active social life in addition to busy days in the office.
As a consequence, many people who work extended hours over a long period of time don't get the adequate sleep they need. In the long term, this lack of sleep can easily cause fatigue and exhaustion. It may considerably reduce their ability to concentrate at work and more generally impact their productivity.
Extended working hours can make you feel more stressed
Tight deadlines, considerable amounts of work or job insecurity can easily become stress factors. A study conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Council indeed revealed that 60% of the people living in Hong Kong suffered from high levels of stress.
This stress is often exacerbated by long working hours spent in the office and many people don't have enough time to unwind after a long day of work. Spending time with their friends or family or engaging in some social activities is indeed vital to maintain a good balance between personal and professional life.
As a result, high stress can have a really negative impact on their health, both on the short and long term. Some effects include headaches, muscle tension or sleep problems for instance, which can cause anxiety, irritability or even depression.
You don't have enough time to exercise
A lot of people working in Hong Kong spend most of their day sitting in front of their computer and therefore are not getting exercise. After a long day at work, others simply lack motivation to engage in a physical activity. A recent poll done by the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Program showed that 49.5% of the people living in Hong Kong failed to meet the standards of the World Health Organization, which requires a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity sport every week.
In addition to this lack of exercise, many people in Hong Kong prefer to eat out rather than cook their own meal and don't always make the healthier choices when it comes to nutrition. This often results in an unbalanced and unhealthy diet, which can easily cause weight gain and therefore increase the risks of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol…
Long term, you could be exposed to more serious health risks
Lack of sleep and exercise combined with high levels of stress can have a negative impact on your health and in some cases increase your risks of developing health issues.
A study conducted by the medical journal The Lancet revealed that people who worked more than 55 hours a week had a 33% greater risk of stroke. Other studies have also found that long working hours considerably increased the risks of coronary heart diseases. One of them looked at the results of 22,500 people and compared their working hours and prevalence of heart diseases. It found out that "approximately 40% excess risk of CHD in employees working long hours", which actually means that people who work extended hours are 40% more likely to develop CHD than employees working normal hours.
So how can you improve your overall health?
Now that you are aware of the negative effects that extended working hours can have on your health, what can you do to avoid them? Because most of the people working in Hong Kong can unfortunately not afford to spend less time in the office, here are some simple steps that you can take for a healthier lifestyle.
First of all, simply try to go to bed earlier. These few hours of sleep that you will gain every week will help you recover from the exhausting days you spend in the office. Eating healthier and doing more exercise will also help you feel more dynamic. Choose more nutritious and healthy meals and start incorporating some exercise classes into your busy schedule at least once or twice a week. Finally, to manage stress effectively, don't forget to take time to unwind – whether it is through a meditation class, an intense workout session or simply by spending some time with your friends and family.
Feeling more rested and less stressed will help you be more productive in the office and more generally, keep a positive state of mind.
Always protect your health
If despite your efforts you are starting to experience symptoms of exhaustion or fatigue, don't hesitate to seek medical advice before it causes any serious damage on your health.
To help you cope with your medical expenses, APRIL International can provide you with a comprehensive and fully flexible medical cover. Discover more about our MyHEALTH package or contact one of our advisers to learn more about your insurance solutions.