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Impacts of Long Working Hours Will be Examined in April Research Conference

March 4, 2004
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749

Researchers from the U.S. and abroad will meet on April 29-30, 2004, in Baltimore, Md., to share the latest scientific findings about the potential effects of long working hours and extended working schedules on occupational health, safety, and well-being. The conference will be a first step in developing a strategic national research agenda to better understand, anticipate, and prevent potential adverse effects.

The sponsors of the conference are the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the University of Maryland School of Nursing, and the U.S. Department of Justice. The conference will be held at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, 655 West Lombard St., Baltimore, Md.

U.S. Department of Labor data over the past 20 years show a pronounced rise in the proportion of U.S. men and women who are working more than 40 hours a week. Women are working more than they did 30 years ago, and the number of couples where both spouses work long hours has increased. In addition, paid time off has declined. The U.S. surpasses Japan and most of Western Europe in the average number of hours worked per person annually, according to International Labour Organization findings.

Although this trend may be due in part to positive motivations, such as companies’ desire to remain competitive in the marketplace and individuals’ wish to increase personal earnings, recent studies link long working hours with the risk of adverse effects from fatigue, stress, and error. Since the existing data raise concerns but are not conclusive, strategic research is needed to help scientists better understand how extended working hours may cause or exacerbate fatigue or stress, the extent to which these effects may occur, their potential role as risk factors for occupational injuries and illnesses, and what measures are effective for preventing potential adverse effects.

“Often, in today’s competitive marketplace, businesses extend work hours to meet a deadline or achieve a quota, but the health and safety impacts of long work hours are not well understood,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “With this conference, we look forward to stimulating new research for generating data that will help employers and employees design work schedules that promote safety and health, and boost productivity.”

Topics to be addressed at the conference include:

  • Impacts of long working hours on individuals: fatigue, stress, health, safety, and work
  • Impacts on families and communities
  • Mitigating and aggravating factors in long working hours: job and personal characteristics
  • Priorities for research on programs and policies for preventing adverse effects
  • Definitions and measurements of long working hours and schedules
  • Opportunities and directions for large-scale studies and surveys

Registration fees are $180 for registration on or before April 16, 2004, $225 for registration after April 16 or on-site, and $50 for students with ID. The conference will be of interest to occupational safety and health researchers and clinicians, and representatives from industry, labor, academia, and government. Seating is limited, so early registration is encouraged. Further information is available on the Web at, by calling the University of Maryland School of Nursing at (410) 706-3767, or email or