Large Europe-wide study confirms work stress linked to greater risk of heart disease

People who have highly demanding jobs and little freedom to make decisions are 23% more likely to experience a heart attack compared with their counterparts without such work stress, according to a study of nearly 200 000 people from seven European countries, published Online First in The Lancet.

"The pooling of published and unpublished studies allowed us to investigate the association between (CHD) and exposure to [defined by high and low decision control] with greater precision than has been previously possible", explains Mika Kivimäki from University College London who led the research. "Our findings indicate that job strain is associated with a small, but consistent, increased risk of experiencing a first CHD event such as a heart attack."

Previous studies examining the impact of job strain on CHD have been inconsistent in their findings, limited in scope, and plagued by methodological shortcomings including and reverse causation bias.

In this collaborative , Kivimäki and colleagues analysed job strain in employees without CHD who participated in 13 European national cohorts conducted in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK between 1985 and 2006. All participants completed questionnaires at the start of the studies to assess job demands, excessive workload, the level of time-pressure demands, and freedom to make decisions.

The researchers recorded 2356 events of incident CHD (first non-fatal heart attack or coronary death) during the average 7.5 year course of follow-up.

The 23% higher risks for people who reported job strain remained the same even after taking into account factors such as lifestyle, age, gender, and socioeconomic status.

What is more says Kivimäki, "The overall population attributable risk (PAR) for CHD events was around 3.4%, suggesting that if the association were causal, then job strain would account for a notable proportion of CHD events in working populations. As such, reducing workplace stress might decrease disease incidence. However, this strategy would have a much smaller effect than tackling standard risk factors such as smoking (PAR 36%) and physical inactivity (PAR 12%)."

In a linked Comment Bo Netterstrøm from Bispebjerg Hospital, Copehagen, Denmark notes, "Job strain is a measure of only part of a psychosocially damaging work environment, which implies that prevention of workplace stress could reduce incidence of coronary to a greater extent than stated in the authors' interpretation of the calculated population-attributable risk for job strain."

He adds, "Exposures such as job insecurity and factors related to social capital and emotions, are likely to be of major importance in the future. The present economic crisis will almost certainly increase this importance."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Job strain associated with stroke in Japanese men

Jan 12, 2009

Japanese men in high-stress jobs appear to have an increased risk of stroke compared with those in less demanding positions, according to a report in the January 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Recommended for you

Barriers preventing post-stroke care

11 hours ago

For stroke victims, rehabilitation is crucial to their recovery. But a Flinders University study conducted in Singapore found that rehabilitation rates following discharge from hospital are poor because of gaps in the continuum ...

Home-based rehabilitation for CVD patients

12 hours ago

Patients who are found to suffer from cardiovascular diseases often have long years of treatment ahead of them and are urged to drastically change their lifestyle. But what is probably the most difficult ...

New remote patient monitoring devices available

15 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Several new remote patient monitoring devices with useful applications are available or under development, according to an article published July 8 in Medical Economics.

Monitoring pulse after stroke may prevent a second stroke

Jul 23, 2014

New research suggests that regularly monitoring your pulse after a stroke or the pulse of a loved one who has experienced a stroke may be a simple and effective first step in detecting irregular heartbeat, a major cause of ...

User comments