Is this you?

Some years ago, a close friend had an angina attack. He had been married for a few years and they had a young daughter. He was under extreme pressure in his job, long hours were common and he ate on the run, mostly fast food takeaways.

There was little work-life balance in his busy life. He was in his early 30s and being a father of a young child had an effect.

It scared him enough to realise he was not superhuman and he could face serious medical problems if he did not change what he was doing.

It is too easy to think that our bodies can cope with an unrelenting schedule and balance is unimportant. Our egos like to think we are indestructible. Clearly, we are not.

In Japan, they have a word 'karoshi', meaning 'death by overwork' when workers succumb to long hours, high stress with no let-up. In fact, around 10,000 Japanese workers a year die from karoshi.

However, it seems it is not the hard work that kills; it is the continuous and relentless pressure without adequate recovery time that poses the danger.

Have you thought who would be affected if you do not make work-life balance a priority? Do you have young children, a family, people who love and care for you?

I do not know anyone who, on their deathbed, would wish for another extra day at the office, over spending time with loved ones. What about you?

At risk

If your job is getting you down, check the hours you spend in the office. Researchers have found that an increasing tendency to work late may be making people sick.

Researchers in the United States surveyed 11,000 American employees, and found that those working overtime were 61 per cent more likely to suffer a work-related injury or illness, compared to those clocking off on time.

Surprisingly, the increased risks were not confined to the more dangerous industries. The results published in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine indicate that workplace accidents may be largely due to fatigue and stress caused by long hours at work.

Workers were asked to detail their employment history, working hours and sick leave between 1987 and 2000.

Of the 110,236 jobs records analysed, 5,139 work-related injuries and illnesses had occurred, with over half affecting those in jobs with extended working hours. In real terms, working at least 12 hours a day increased the risk of injury or illness by 37 per cent.

According to anti-ageing expert Prof Avni Sali of Swinburne University in Melbourne, older Australians, especially those over 40, are in danger of being killed by the stresses of work.

"Those over 40 have the strongest work ethic," he said. And he adds that Australians work the longest hours in the developed world.

Other patterns include too much eating, too much continuous stress, too little sleep, too much hostility and too little physical activity, which can all lead to higher incidences of illness and even death.

So, what about you? Do you have a big enough reason to change now?