The latest PR nonsense

An organisation that will remain nameless sent a press release.

Working more than 48 hours a week shortens your lifespan! See, see, in the international statistics!

They had not adjusted for income levels. Poor people life shorter lives, yes, poor people work longer hours, yes. But if you don’t adjust for income levels then pointing to shorter lives and longer working hours then…..

5 comments on “The latest PR nonsense

  1. It all depends! If you are a worker in a chemical factory in some “third world” hell-hole (one where the government pretends that it is no longer communist) then working more than 48 hours a week increases the damage to your lungs and shortens your life.
    If you are a subsistence farmer in a third world country that is merely poor, then working more than 48 hours a week lengthens your life.
    The statistics will merely inform you that a longer working week (>48 hours) and a shorter lifespan are correlated – we already know that it is true in the UK as the overwhelming majority of those working >48 hours/week are men and men die younger. The causal factor for both of these correlated data is masculinity.
    Tim’s secondary causal factor – poverty – is also significant, but one may note that those working no hours a week are also (unless they have nice pensions or rich husbands) poor and relatively short-lived. Someone with access to the data could use this to ridicule the PR firm’s claim.

  2. Fascinating. They take a concept like the fixed hour working week. Which pretty well only applies in the rich developed world. And hardly, universally, there. And then try & make it fit globally.
    Exactly what do they expect to learn from this and what benefit will be derived from doing so?

  3. Yes, if income explains all of the correlation, then observing the correlation between life years and working hours tells you nothing.
    Like observing the correlation between insulin consumption and low quality of eye-sight.
    But these guys want to inform public policy presumably.
    Thinking slightly deeper, the PR agency’s mistake (whose name escapes me – second effect causation perhaps) is possibly the second biggest finding in economic science which is non-trivial and non-obvious.

  4. I got some WHO data and gave it to my students to do correlation practice on.

    They were delighted to discover that alcohol consumption, cigarette consumption, lack of exercise and eating processed food were all *negatively* correlated to lifespan.

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