Regularly working overtime increases the risk of high blood pressure by 70%, study finds

Regularly working 40-hour weeks increases your risk of high blood pressure by up to 70% ‘because of the stress and lack of exercise’

  • Working more than typical 35-hour week put office employees at greater risk 
  • Stress, lack of sleep and not enough exercise are all thought to cause condition
  • Five-year study looked at more than 3,500 white-collar employees in Canada

Office workers who regularly do overtime are more likely to have high blood pressure, research suggests.

Working more than the typical 35-hour week increased the risk of the potentially-lethal condition by up to two-thirds.

Those who spent more than 49 hours in the office had a 70 per cent greater chance of hypertension compared to people who worked a nine to five.

While employees who worked over 41 hours a week saw the risk heighten by more than a 50 per cent.

The researchers, from Laval University in Quebec, Canada, said stress, not enough sleep and lack of exercise was to blame – all of which put stress on the heart.

Working more than 35 hours a week in an office increased the risk of high blood pressure, a potentially-lethal condition, by up to two-thirds (stock)

People with high blood pressure have an increased risk of suffering from a stroke, heart attack or developing kidney disease.

The five-year study looked at more than 3,500 white-collar employees at three insurance companies in Quebec. It involved three waves of testing – in years one, three and five.

To simulate in-clinic blood pressure readings, participants were given a wearable monitor to check their resting blood pressure three times each morning.

For the rest of the workday, the volunteers wore the blood pressure monitoring device.

It took readings every 15 minutes – collecting a minimum of 20 additional measures for one day.

Average resting readings at or above 140/90 mmHg, and average working readings at or above 135/85, were considered high.

Compared with colleagues who worked fewer than 35 hours a week, the study found that working 49 or more hours each week was linked to a 70 per cent greater likelihood of having masked hypertension.

This is when a person’s blood pressure gives a normal reading during a clinical test, but high the rest of the day.

The study also found a 66 greater likelihood of having sustained hypertension, when blood pressure is high throughout the day. If untreated both can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Working between 41 and 48 hours each week was linked to a 54 per cent greater likelihood of having masked hypertension and 42 per cent greater likelihood of having sustained hypertension.

The findings accounted for variables including job strain, age, sex, education level, occupation, smoking status, body mass index (BMI) and other health factors.

Study lead author Doctor Xavier Trudel, assistant professor in the social and preventive medicine department at Laval University, said: ‘Both masked and sustained high blood pressure are linked to higher cardiovascular disease risk.

‘The observed associations accounted for job strain, a work stressor defined as a combination of high work demands and low decision-making authority.

‘However, other related stressors might have an impact. Future research could examine whether family responsibilities – such as a worker’s number of children, household duties and childcare role – might interact with work circumstances to explain high blood pressure.

‘People should be aware that long work hours might affect their heart health, and if they’re working long hours, they should ask their doctors about checking their blood pressure over time with a wearable monitor. 

The research team noted the study did not include any blue collar workers so the findings may not apply to labourers, or shift workers.


High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many won’t realise it.

The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.

Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
  • ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
  • low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
  • A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:

  • heart disease
  • heart attacks
  • strokes
  • heart failure
  • peripheral arterial disease
  • aortic aneurysms
  • kidney disease
  • vascular dementia

Source: NHS