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Bank of America intern found dead; alleged to have pulled three all-nighters in a row

A Bank of America logo is seen outside a bank branch in Charlotte, North Carolina January 19, 2010.

CHRIS KEANE/REUTERS

People who sleep in are known to have shorter days, but what about people who don't sleep at all?

Well, they die.

The news that an intern has passed away, after allegedly pulling all-nighters three nights in a row, has created a contentious debate surrounding the overworking culture that has become commonplace in many occupations.

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Moritz Erhardt, 21, died one week before completing an intense summer internship at Bank of America's Merrill Lynch offices in London.

"He was popular amongst his peers and was a highly diligent intern at our company with a promising future," Bank of America said in a statement.

Very diligent, indeed. Erdhadt had apparently worked until 6 a.m. three nights in a row before suddenly succumbing to his exhaustion on Aug. 15. A bank spokesperson said that there was nothing "untoward" about Erdhadt's death, and that he died of a result of "natural causes." Yet there is nothing natural about depriving your body of sleep.

Decades worth of sleep pathology studies have shown that sleep deprivation not only reduces one's cognitive ability and increases the chances of human error, it has also been linked to health issues such as depression, anxiety, a weakened immune system and reduced thyroid function.

Deaths like Erdhadt's are not unheard of.

Gabriel Li, a 24-year-old Ogilvy public-relations employee in Beijing, suffered a deadly heart attack at his desk this past spring. The Yangtze Evening News cited unnamed sources who claimed Li had worked overtime for an entire month.

And in 2011, Angela Pan, a 25-year-old auditor working for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Shanghai died after contracting viral encephalitis. Friends of Pan had told The Shanghai Daily that she would often work 120 hours a week.

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So what does this mean for the legions of twentysomethings eager to slave away for a chance at a coveted employment opportunity?

Well, if you live to work, perhaps you'll end up working yourself to death.

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