"Women -- especially women who have to juggle multiple roles -- feel the effects of intensive work experiences and that can set the table for a variety of illnesses and disability," said lead author Allard Dembe from the Ohio State University.
The risk begins to climb when women put in more than 40 hours and takes a decidedly bad turn above 50 hours, the study found. The researchers found that women who worked an average of 60 hours or more over three decades had three times the risk of getting diabetes, cancer, heart trouble and arthritis than those who worked 40-hour weeks.
"People don't think that much about how their early work experiences affect them down the road," Dembe said. "Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s are setting themselves up for problems later in life," he added.
Men with tough work schedules appeared to fare much better, found the study published recently in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. In the study, the researchers interviewed 7,500 people and analysed the relationship between serious disease and hours worked over a 32-year period.
Women tend to face more pressure and stress than men when they work long hours because they undertake the lion's share of family responsibility, an earlier study suggested. Moreover, work for women may be less satisfying because of the need to balance work demands with family obligations, Dembe added.