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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Long working hours and metabolic syndrome among Japanese men: a cross-sectional study

Tomoko Kobayashi*, Etsuji Suzuki, Soshi Takao and Hiroyuki Doi

Author Affiliations

Department of Epidemiology, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2-5-1 Shikata-cho, Kita-ku, Okayama, 700-8558, Japan

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:395  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-395

Published: 31 May 2012



The link between long working hours and health has been extensively studied for decades. Despite global concern regarding metabolic syndrome, however, no studies to date have solely evaluated the relationship between long working hours and that syndrome. We therefore examined the association between long working hours and metabolic syndrome in a cross-sectional study.


Between May and October 2009, we collected data from annual health checkups and questionnaires from employees at a manufacturing company in Shizuoka, Japan. Questionnaires were returned by 1,601 workers (response rate: 96.2%; 1,314 men, 287 women). After exclusions, including women because of a lack of overtime work, the analysis was performed for 933 men. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for metabolic syndrome. Further, we conducted a stratified analysis by age-group (<40 years vs. ≥40 years).


Metabolic syndrome was identified in 110 workers (11.8%). We observed a positive association between working hours and metabolic syndrome after adjusting for age, occupation, shift work, smoking status, frequency of alcohol consumption, and cohabiting status. Compared with subjects who worked 7–8 h/day, multivariate ORs for metabolic syndrome were 1.66 (95% CI, 0.91–3.01), 1.48 (95% CI, 0.75–2.90), and 2.32 (95% CI, 1.04–5.16) for those working 8–9 h/day, 9–10 h/day, and >10 h/day, respectively. Similar patterns were obtained when we excluded shift workers from the analysis. In age-stratified analysis, the corresponding ORs among workers aged ≥40 years were 2.02 (95% CI, 1.04–3.90), 1.21 (95% CI, 0.53–2.77), and 3.14 (95% CI, 1.24–7.95). In contrast, no clear association was found among workers aged <40 years.


The present study suggests that 10 h/day may be a trigger level of working hours for increased risk of metabolic syndrome among Japanese male workers.

Long working hours; Metabolic syndrome; Japan; Trigger level