Workplace stress could be taking a toll on the heart
Published Saturday, September 15, 2012 10:30PM EDT
Those in high-stress positions with little say in the office could be working themselves into a heart attack, according to a new European study.
A study published in The Lancet medical journal on Friday showed those with demanding jobs and little freedom to make decisions are 23 per cent more likely to experience a heart attack compared to their less-stressed counterparts.
“The pooling of published and unpublished studies allowed us to investigate the association between coronary heart disease and exposure to job strain with greater precision than has been previously possible,” lead researcher Mika Kivimäki of University College London said in a news release. “Our findings indicate that job strain is associated with a small, but consistent, increased risk of experiencing a first coronary heart disease event such as a heart attack.”
Kivimäki said while previous studies have looked at job strain and its effect on the human heart, the findings were often limited in their scope.
The new collaborative project examined the results of nearly 20,000 surveys from 13 studies that were conducted in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the U.K. between 1985 and 2006.
Participants completed questionnaires at the beginning of the studies that assessed job demands, excessive workload, the level of time-pressure demands, and freedom to make decisions.
The researchers then recorded 2,356 incidents of non-fatal heart attacks over the course of seven years.
The results showed a clear link between heart disease and stress even after lifestyle, age, gender and socioeconomic status were taken into account.
While lower stress levels are healthier for the heart, Kivimäki said cutting out risk factors such as smoking, or being more physically active remain a more effective means of avoiding heart disease.
One labour relations expert told CTV News that workplace stress is on the rise as the work day moves beyond the eight-hour realm with employer-issued laptops and smartphones.
“People are working more,” Mike Cuma of the Legacy Bowes Group told CTV News.
“They are working longer hours, more overtime. They are actually being required to put out more efforts of work.”
Dr. Brian Baker of the Heart and Stroke Foundation has studied the effects of stress on the heart for decades and said that stress is a health problem that has not been properly recognized.
“It’s best that you not ruminate, you not obsess about your work,” said Baker. “Because then you are more liable to the effects of stress over time.”
With a report from CTV’s Winnipeg Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon