A new study published by the World Health Organization claims that hundreds of thousands of people are killed each year due to working long hours.

The study said the deaths may have been accelerated over the past months due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research published in the journal Environment International is the first global study on the health effects of longer working hours. The study showed that more than 745,000 die from stress-related conditions caused by working too long each day.

According to the study, there has been a nearly 30% increase in deaths due to stroke and heart diseases associated with long working hours from 2000 to 2016. The purpose of the study was to show how forcing employees to work long hours is detrimental to their health and to hopefully convince employers to be more sparring in requiring overtime work.  

 "Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard. What we want to do with this information is promote more action, more protection of workers," the director of the WHO's Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, Dr. Maria Neira, said.

The WHO study, which was conducted together with the International Labor Organization, showed that around 72% of the victims that succumbed to the illnesses were men that were middle-aged or older. The study showed that deaths due to stress-related conditions happened later in life.

The study showed that most of the people that worked excessively long hours were those in the Southeast Asian and the Western Pacific region. This includes those working in Japan and China, where people were most affected by conditions caused by long working hours.

The WHO drew its conclusions from data collected in researches done in 194 countries.  The study said working more than 55 hours per week can increase the risk of stroke by 35% and ischemic heart disease by 17%.

Researchers urged the public to reduce their work hours if possible, particularly during the pandemic. The study said the global health crisis and the surge in remote working may have increased the tendency for people to work for longer hours.

"The pandemic is accelerating developments that could feed the trend towards increased working time. It's really a smart choice not to increase long working hours in an economic crisis," the study said.