Narayana Murthy, a pioneer in the IT industry, recently said that youngsters in India should work 70 hours a week. This statement has led to many debates and discussions. In this podcast, Anjana PV talks to Dr Deepak Krishnamurthy, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Sakra World Hospital, Bengaluru, about the consequences of working for 70 hours on an individual’s physical wealth.

Krishnamurthy suggests that breaking down a 70-hour work week, it translates to 14 hours a day for a five-day work-week or 12 hours a day for a six-day work-week. While it might be possible for someone to sustain this level of work intensity for a day or two, expecting it to be a regular practice is not just unrealistic but also harmful. The effects on an individual’s physical and mental health can be profound.

He explained that studies conducted worldwide have shown that consistently working more than 55 hours per week increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks, cardiac arrests, strokes, high blood pressure, and diabetes. These health consequences are not immediate but accumulate over time, leading to severe conditions in the long run.

Many countries, including European nations and the United States, have recognised the detrimental impact of excessive working hours on health and have implemented limits on work hours, typically ranging from 30 to 45 hours per week, with a maximum cap at 55 hours. These regulations are in place to protect the well-being of employees and ensure a reasonable work-life balance.

The misconception that young individuals should be able to endure such long work weeks is also misplaced. While some may be able to cope with it for a few years in their twenties, the health effects become increasingly apparent as they enter their thirties and forties. Cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, disturbed sleep, anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders are just a few of the consequences that can manifest as a result of prolonged and excessive working hours.

Furthermore, the notion that people over the age of 40 should take it easy while those below 40 can handle the workload is flawed. The risk of health issues, especially cardiovascular diseases, sets in before the age of 40 due to cumulative damage that occurs over the years. Once these changes occur in the circulatory system, they are challenging to reverse, making it vital to promote healthier work practices from an early stage in one’s career.

Krishnamurthy also suggested that the rise in heart-related issues is not solely due to a 70-hour work week but is a multifaceted problem. It’s a reflection of our changing lifestyles, including the stress levels we experience, the long working hours, a lack of physical activity, unhealthy dietary choices, and the increased prevalence of risk factors such as smoking. These factors have become more pronounced in recent years, contributing to the surge in heart attacks among younger individuals.

COVID-19 has also played a role in increasing the risk of heart-related issues. People who have recovered from moderate or severe cases of COVID-19 may have a higher risk of developing cardiac arrest and heart attacks. However, it’s essential to note that while COVID-19 may be a contributing factor, lifestyle and other risk factors play a more significant role in the increased incidence of heart attacks.

While hard work and dedication are important, they should not come at the cost of an individual’s physical and mental health. It is crucial to implement stricter labour laws and regulations that limit working hours to ensure that employees are healthy, productive, and capable of sustaining their careers without compromising their well-being. Achieving this balance is essential for the overall well-being of the workforce and the long-term success of any nation.

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