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Work and Health : In balance

Long working hours for PR and media staff could jeopardise health

According to a nationwide life balance survey, commissioned by Imodium in March 2007, just 3 per cent of Britons are currently achieving a satisfactory life balance, with two-thirds achieving a life balancing rating of 'poor' or 'very poor'.

The study - designed to evaluate people's life balance through assessing a number of factors such as working, commuting, exercise and stress levels - uses a mathematical formula developed by Dr David Lewis, a neuropsychologist, author and lecturer specialising in brain research using Quantified Electroencephalography. The factors are entered into a macro, which weights them individually, to calculate each person's specific life balance. This means that even if one exercises and gets sufficient sleep each night, long working hours and high levels of stress could still make one susceptible to serious health risks.

Dr Lewis's formula scores a subject's life balance from 0-100 (with 0 being very poor and 100 being perfectly balanced). The average score for PR workers was 38.4. People working in PR and the media were found to be the most likely to get a good night's sleep, with fewer than one in ten media and PR professionals getting less than 6 hours a night. They were also shown to be more likely to spend more time out of work exercising, with 13 per cent claiming to exercise for 6-8 hours a week. On the flip-side however, it was found that more than one in three media and PR workers exceed the European Union's recommended 40 hours a week, with many of those working more that 60 hours a week. PR and media employees are more likely than IT, finance, sales, health and education professionals to work 12 hour days.

Long working hours have been directly linked to increased stress, a lack of sleep and general poor health. This, combined with less time spent relieving stress through their relationships, has been proven to increase the occurance of ill health and stress related problems such as stomach up sets and irritable bowel syndrome.

Commenting on the Imodium survey, Dr Lewis said, We know that long working hours, commuting, lack of sleep, minimal exercise and less time with the family combine with stress to put our lives out of kilter, but this is the first time that a mathematical formula has been used to measure the impact. The consequences for health are well documented, with unbalanced individuals at increased risk of a whole host of complaints, from heart disease to stomach problems.

The Imodium research shows that people in the UK desperately need to take steps to improve their life balance. The feeling that we live to work seems to be unique to the UK and it must change if we are to maintain good health into later life.

The Life Balance survey was commissioned as part of the Imodium 'balance your life' campaign to assess the demands placed on subjects' by their lifestyles and how excessive demands correlate to imbalances in digestive health. For more details visit www.lifebalancechallenge.com

Long working hours have been directly linked to increased stress, a lack of sleep and general poor health

9th August 2007

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