May 202008

Published in The Evening Echo, 20/05/2008

Desk job could be killing you There’s no getting around it, some jobs are just plain dangerous.

Working high up, work involving heavy lifting, working with machinery, working underground, working with dangerous animals, working in hostile environments… even dealing with the general public can have elevated risk levels. But what about your bog standard, run-of-the-mill office job. For the risk averse out there, surely that’s as safe as they come.

You might think so, but not according to scientists from the UK and New Zealand, who recently warned that office workers are at higher risk of potentially fatal blood clots. If you spend long hours sitting in front of your computer every day you double the risk of developing deep veined thrombosis (DVT), the same condition that affects passengers on long haul flights.

Researchers in Southampton and New Zealand questioned 200 patients admitted to hospital for either blood clots or heart problems, and compared how long each group was typically sitting in a given day, both in total and in a single period uninterrupted period.

“The risk of developing blood clots with prolonged seated immobility is largely unrecognised. However, this study has shown that it is at least as important a factor as long-distance air travel,” Professor Richard Beasley, from Wellington Hospital, New Zealand, told the Daily Telegraph.

“This study provides preliminary evidence that prolonged seated immobility at work may represent a risk factor for venous thromboembolism [DVT] requiring hospital admission.”

According to Prof. Beasley, both the Both total time seated at work in any given day, and the maximum time spent seated without getting up, contributed to the increased risk of DVT, which the authors say could be caused by increased pressure on the veins of the legs when sitting still. They warn that the risks can be exacerbated by sitting in overly cramped conditions, and by periods of intense concentration that tend to result in reduced muscle activity.

If your job involves sitting for long periods of time, the authors recommend that you minimise your exposure to risk by taking similar precautions to those advised for long-distance flights: periodically exercise and stretch your feet, ankles and calves, and make sure you take regular breaks to get up and walk around the office.

As if the threat of blood clots wasn’t enough of a health risk, in another study earlier this month researchers in the UK revealed that your computer keyboard is a microbial paradise. According to the research carried out in a busy London office the key’s you’re tapping away on every day could harbour more harmful bacteria than the average toilet seat. In fact, microbiologists conducting the research found the level of bacteria in one keyboard to be so high that they reportedly had it removed from the premises.

A separate study revealed that 10% of workers never clean their keyboards, while 20% never clean their mouse. So if you think you’re safe in your average, run-of-the-mill office job… think again. If the blood clots don’t get you, the bugs in your keyboard will!

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