The Unexpected Long-term Health Side Effects of Working Long Hours Away From Home

November 27, 2022

According to data gathered by the University of Texas, American “workers work more than their counterparts in other wealthy countries.” Over the course of one year, an average U.S. employee puts in 1,800 hours – which is more than any other wealthy country. Not only do Americans work more hours than other comparable countries, but we do much more work at undesirable times. For example, twenty-seven percent of U.S. workers perform some work between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am. Thirty percent of Americans work on weekends. Perhaps these trends have added to an increase in unemployment, with the number of Americans expected to work in 1994 increasing by 9 million by the year 2014.

Along with excessive hours, many jobs require employees to spend large amounts of time away from home. While the pay and benefits from these types of jobs can be rewarding, spending excessive time working away from home can lead to several long-term health side effects over time.

Sleep Deprivation

Working consistently long hours away from home over an extended period can lead to chronic sleep deprivation. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), sleep loss and disorders are “among the most common yet frequently overlooked and readily treatable health problems.” The NCBI estimates “50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, which can hinder daily functioning and adversely affect health and longevity.” Cumulative effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences, including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

Along with these risks come public health concerns, such as:

  • Mortality
  • Morbidity
  • Performance
  • accidents and injuries
  • functioning and quality of life
  • family well-being
  • health care utilization


Malnutrition can often result from working long hours away from home. According to the NCBI, malnutrition is often overlooked by clinicians, is common, and has wide-ranging effects on physiological function. Malnutrition affects the function and recovery of every organ system, including:

  • Muscle function
  • Cardio-respiratory function
  • Gastrointestinal function
  • Immunity and wound healing
  • Psychosocial effects

Social Isolation

According to the University of Tulane, adverse health consequences from social isolation range from sleeplessness to reduced immune function. Loneliness is associated with higher anxiety, depression, and suicide rates. Deficiencies in social relationships are even associated with a higher risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. Further, loneliness is associated with a 40 percent increase in the risk of dementia.

Professions Associated with Hard Labor and Isolation

While workers in all professions can potentially experience burnout, sleep deprivation, malnutrition, and social isolation, there are certain professions where these side effects occur more frequently.

Commercial Fishing

Commercial fishermen must often work long hours in isolated settings. Commercial fishing vessels can stay out on the ocean for up to 6 months at a time, with average expeditions lasting 4 to 5 months at a time. The fishermen working on these vessels work “hitches” – or long periods offshore without returning back home – for periods of a month or longer. When on a hitch, workers are scheduled for periods of time “on the clock” that can last anywhere from 8 to 14 hours. However, a worker’s hitch does not always start at 9 am and end at 5 pm. Rest periods are not always strictly defined. Workers often must be on alert 24 hours per day to ensure the safety of the entire crew and get the job done.

Offshore Oil Rigging

Like Commercial fishermen, offshore oil rig workers are subjected to long hitches away from home. Oil rig workers can stay offshore for up to one month at a time, or possibly longer. Some workers are on the clock for 12 hours each day, and other workers for 16 hours per day depending on the type of work and length of the worker’s hitch. Due to the dangerous nature of their work, sleep can be interrupted at times of emergency.

Working out at sea involves dangerous work. There are numerous risks that seafaring workers encounter while on the job. Coupled with long hours, burnout, isolation, and other health risks, these risks become far more prevalent. To name a few risks that these workers face:

  • Severe weather conditions and ocean conditions
  • Slips and falls from wet or slippery conditions
  • Capsized vessels
  • Basket transfer injuries
  • Collisions with equipment
  • Collisions with other vessels
  • Crane and hoisting equipment injuries
  • Dropped objects
  • Equipment pinches / severed limbs
  • Explosions and fires
  • Falls from height
  • Broken bones
  • Helicopter crashes
  • Lifting injuries

Workers that are injured on the job as commercial fishermen, oil rig workers, or other workers out at sea are protected by general maritime laws and the Jones Act. These laws are specifically designed to protect seafaring workers. Litigating maritime injuries can be complex, so it is important to speak with top-rated maritime injury attorneys when evaluating your injuries.

Truck Driving

Truck drivers are also exposed to many health consequences from long hours on the road and away from home. Truck drivers, and those sharing the road with them, can be subjected to danger if health consequences affect a driver’s performance. Accidents involving tanker trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, and other large commercial trucks and buses often occur due to burnout and isolation, as truck drivers spend long hours driving on tight deadlines.

Some safety risks for long-haul truckers and other drivers on the road include:

  • Burnout or lack of sleep
  • Poor maintenance
  • Harsh weather conditions
  • Lack of training
  • Poor safety protocol
  • Other dangerous drivers

If you are a trucker that has suffered serious injuries on the job or are a driver seriously injured by a trucker or other driver on the road, it is important to act quickly in the event of an accident and contact a truck accident attorney.

If you or a loved one is working under dangerous conditions and suffers severe injuries or death while on the job, it is crucially important to quickly consult personal injury lawyers to help evaluate your potential claims. Our trial attorneys are experienced in types of on-the-job injuries and know how to position your case to maximize the compensation you deserve.

Contact our lawyers today for a free consultation. We are here to serve.

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