Is there really something like ‘working yourself to death’?

Postdate: 13 August 2018

The Japanese word Karoshi means ‘death by overwork’ or: dying from working too hard. Tsuru Expert and cardiologist Dr Ruud van Langeveld reveals more about this extreme working culture, and explains what factors can contribute to karoshi.

Over-work and heart conditions
The 31-year old journalist Miwa Sado died in 2013 in her Japanese apartment after doing 159 hours of overtime. Over 1 month before her death, she had only taken 2 days off. She was not the first and only person like this. A 2016 study showed a relationship between working too much and heart conditions. An increased incidence of 33% was found for a 65-hour working week.

Other research done in 2014 showed an increased risk of diabetes relative to the number of hours worked.

Read more: Setting boundaries for yourself and your environment

The use of drugs
Nevertheless, mortality as a definite direct result of too many working hours in Western society is quite rare. Work-related death is seen especially in the form of excessive use of stimulants; chemical substances needed to keep up with the demands of the job. Overtime in combination with cocaine for example, plays a role in acute serious rhythm disorders of the heart. It leads to acute cardiac muscle death, not least partly by completely constricting the blood vessels to the heart muscle. It is not the overtime that finishes you off, but the cocaine. Replace this process by smoking and the story remains unchanged. The amount of work only creates the circumstances and escalates the climate.

Premature death from working too hard
Is there a relationship to working too hard? Yes, there certainly is, but indirectly. It is ‘out of control stress levels’ that ultimately pull the trigger, but not stress itself. This also goes for lack of sleep. It has never been shown that too little sleep is an acute cause of death. However, it does increase the risk of heart conditions as well as diabetes.

The heart does not give up easily. Working too hard in itself and associated hours are not direct causes of death. Whatever the reason may be, working too hard is not good for your health.


death     heart conditions     Japan     karoshi    


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