Australian researchers found that long working hours may not be good for our health. According to researchers from the Australian National University (ANU), the healthy work limit should be 39 hours per week.

The research team determines that those who work more than 39 hours are putting their health at risk. They recommend changing the normal 48-hour-week limit, which was internationally set 80 years ago.

In a press release, the study’s lead researcher Dr Huong Dinh from the ANU Research School of Population Health pointed out that around two in three Australians, who are also in full-time employment, are currently working more than 40 hours per week. These long hours of work also pose more problems to women, who do more unpaid work at their homes.

“Long work hours erode a person’s mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly,” Dinh stated. Meanwhile, the research team found that the healthy work limit for women must only be 34 hours a week, after their other commitments have been taken into account. On the other hand, the researchers said that the healthy work limit for men was up to 47 hours per week. Men’s healthy work limit is longer than women’s because they are less likely to spend time on care or domestic work than women, the researchers said.

Despite the fact that women on average are as skilled as men, women on average have lower paid jobs and less autonomy than men, and they spend much more time on care and domestic work,” lead researcher Dr Dinh also said. “Given the extra demands placed on women, it’s impossible for women to work long hours often expected by employers unless they compromise their health.”

For their study, the research team used data from around 8,000 adults in Australia. The data was part of the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey.

The study’s co-researcher Professor Lyndall Strazdins from the ANU Research School of Population Health, Australia must solve bigger problems that affect an employee’s work and home life balance. She adds that Australia must change the current attitude toward work limit.

“Australia needs to do more to change attitudes to work and to support men to take time to care without penalty or prejudice. Australians also need to dispel the widespread belief that people need to work long hours to do a good job,” said Lyndall.

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