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Smoking linked to working hours, according to Loughborough research

People who work long hours find it harder to quit smoking, and those who have given up are more at risk of starting again, according to Loughborough University research.

The study also suggests that more people are likely to start smoking if the Government ever secures an opt-out from the European Working Time Directive.

Academics found direct links between the hours worked and the number of cigarettes smoked, revealing that people who work longer smoke more.

The study, which used data from the British Household Panel Survey, reviewed the smoking behaviour of more than 20,000 people over a 19-year period.

It found a smoker who increases their working week from 40 to 60-plus hours is less than half as likely to quit smoking as someone who stays on a 40-hour week.

The study, Working time and cigarette smoking: evidence from Australia and the United Kingdom, was led in the UK by Professor Andy Charlwood from Loughborough University’s School of Business and Economics.

He said: “We were interested to find out what happens to smoking behaviour as working hours change, and have identified a clear link between the hours worked and an individual’s likelihood of smoking.

“When smokers increase their hours above a typical 40 hour working week, the chances they will successfully give up smoking fall, and they become progressively less likely to give up as their working hours increase.

“Former smokers who start working longer hours are also more likely to relapse.

“Even if people like their jobs and choose to work long hours, we tend to experience more stress and less pleasure at work than we do when undertaking most other day to day activities.

“Because smokers experience smoking as a pleasurable and stress relieving activity, the additional stress of working long hours is likely to increase the craving for cigarettes.

“Our results suggest that working time regulation is a public health issue.

“Attempts to remove working time regulations, such as calls to secure a British opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, will (if heeded) be likely to result in more people smoking more cigarettes, with all the health problems that go along with that.”

The study also found a similar link between working time and smoking among Australians.

Working time and cigarette smoking: evidence from Australia and the United Kingdom has been published in Social Science & Medicine.

Co-authors were David Angrave, of the University of York, and Professor Mark Wooden, of the University of Melbourne.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 14/143

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year title in 2008-09 and has been named Sports University of the Year 2013-14 by The Times and Sunday Times. Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and has been voted England's Best Student Experience for six years running in the Times Higher Education league. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

In 2015 the University will open an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University in London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will offer postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.


Chris Goddard
Public Relations Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697

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