| Stressful Work Tied to
Heart Disease Death Risk
NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - People who put much more into
their jobs than they get back may be more likely to die of heart
disease than those with more satisfying work, new study findings
Researchers in Finland found that
among the more than 800 workers they followed over 25 years, those
with either high job strain or so-called effort-reward imbalance
had a more than twofold higher risk of death from cardiovascular
disease than their peers.
Effort-reward imbalance means that
an employee's job demands outweigh what's offered in return, in
terms of money, career opportunities, job security and status.
And while a number of studies have linked job stress to heart
disease risk, this appears to be the first to specifically tie
the mismatch between work effort and reward to the odds of dying
from heart disease, the study's lead author told Reuters Health.
Dr. Mika Kivimaki and colleagues at
the University of Helsinki studied 812 employees at factories
owned by one manufacturer in central Finland. Their occupations
ranged from "top management to shop-floor semi-skilled, blue collar
workers," according to Kivimaki.
Regardless of the occupation, the
researchers found, workers who reported high job strain--defined
as a demanding job that allows the employee little control--were
2.2 times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than workers
with low job strain were. Similarly, employees who felt there
was a large imbalance between their job effort and reward had
a 2.4-times higher risk of cardiovascular death.
The findings are published in the
October 19th issue of the British Medical Journal.
Both job strain and effort-reward
imbalance are measures of overall work stress, and research in
recent years has raised concerns that chronic job stress may boost
a person's odds of heart disease. Kivimaki said that experts speculate
that such long-term stress could have ill effects on hormonal
and nervous-system functions key to the cardiovascular system.
Some research also suggests that work woes could contribute to
problems with blood clotting or insulin resistance, a precursor
to diabetes, which in turn is a major risk factor for heart disease
Kivimaki's team also found that greater
job stress at the study's outset was associated with higher cholesterol
and body mass index 5 to 10 years later--regardless of factors
such as age, exercise habits and smoking.
Moreover, the link between job strain
and cardiovascular disease was strongest among workers who were
still doing the same job 5 years after their work-stress levels
were measured. This is in line with the idea that chronic stress
is more likely when a person sticks with the same job or workplace
for the long haul, according to the researchers.
They point out, however, that neither
demanding work nor an employee's intense efforts necessarily indicate
"harmful stress." In this study, the authors note, these two factors
alone were not related to cardiovascular death risk.
Still, they conclude, the findings support the "holistic" view that,
in addition to established heart risks like smoking, inactivity
and high-fat diets, psychological factors such as job stress are
important as well.
SOURCE: British Medical Journal
Reference Source 89