Sitting on the job can kill you – literally. This is the decision handed down by a United States judge on June 27 this year.
The New York Superior Court in New Jersey heard the case of Renner v. AT & T which involved the death of Cathleen Renner who worked as a manager for AT&T and whose job required her to sit at her computer for long periods.
The cause of her death was a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism is defined as a blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of its branches by a substance that has travelled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream (embolism). Usually this is due to embolism of a thrombus (blood clot) from the deep veins in the legs.
Renner’s husband applied for dependency benefits from workers’ compensation arguing his wife’s death was work-related. A doctor acting as an expertfor Mr. Renner agreed sitting for extended periods can lead to a slowing or stoppage of blood flow which can then cause clots.
A workers’ compensation judge concluded the claim was compensable because most of Renner’s inactivity occurred while she was working. AT & T appealed the decision to a state of New York court.
In coming to its decision the court found evidence that:
- Renner had worked through the night in the hours before her embolism;
- An autopsy report supported testimony that the embolism was recently formed.
The court ruled the requirements of New Jersey’s workers compensation law for a claim for injury or death from a cardiovascular cause had been met. The court upheld the decision by the workers’ compensation judge and award dependency benefits to Renner’s widower.
This decision comes on the heels of an American Cancer Society study that also confirmed sitting for long periods can significantly shorten your life.
The study looked at health outcomes for 123,216 people during a 14-year period and concluded that time spent sitting was associated with an increased risk of death, regardless of the level of physical activity.
The study found women who reported sitting for more than six hours a day versus less than three hours a day had an approximately 40 per cent higher death rate from any cause. Men had about a 20 per cent higher death rate associated with sitting for the same length of time. Time spent sitting regardless of physical activity was mostly associated with deaths from cardiovascular disease in both men and women. However it was also associated with increased risk of cancer deaths in women only.
Findings of the Cancer Society study are consistent with three other recent studies which also looked at the effects of prolonged sitting.
The authors of the Cancer Society study suggested public health messages and guidelines be updated to include reduced time spent sitting in addition to increased physical activity.
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