Higher job strain associated with increased cardiovascular risk for women

July 18, 2012

Women with high job strain are 67% more likely to experience a heart attack and 38% more likely to have a cardiovascular event than their counterparts in low strain jobs, according to a study published July 18 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. The researchers, led by Dr. Michelle A. Albert of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, did not find any correlation between job insecurity and long-term cardiovascular disease risk.

New research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) finds that women with high job strain are more likely to experience a cardiovascular-related event compared with women with low job strain. These findings are published in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

“Previous long-term studies of job strain, defined by the combination of psychological demand and job control, and heart disease risk have mainly focused on men and a more restricted set of cardiovascular conditions,” said Michelle A. Albert, a cardiologist and researcher at BWH and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “Our study indicates that high job strain can negatively affect your health. There are immediate and definite long-term, clinically documented cardiovascular health effects of job strain in women, and it is important for women and their health care providers to pay attention to the stresses of their job.”

Researchers analyzed self-reported data from 22,000 women over 10 years who participated in the landmark Women’s Health Study. The women were primarily Caucasian health professionals with an average age of 57 who provided information about heart disease risk factors, job strain, and job insecurity. A standard questionnaire was used to evaluate job strain and job insecurity; it asked for responses to statements such as “My job requires working very fast,” “My job requires working very hard,” and “I am free from competing demands that others make.”

Researchers found that after adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, education, and income, women with high job strain were 38 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular-related event including nonfatal heart attack, nonfatal ischemic stroke, coronary artery bypass grafting and/or coronary angioplasty, and cardiovascular death. Moreover, the risk of heart of attacks was increased by almost 70 percent among women with high job strain. High job strain is defined as having a demanding job that provides limited opportunity for decision-making or to use one’s creative or individual skills. The study also found that job insecurity or fear of losing one’s job and job strain were both associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, and excess body weight. However, unlike job strain, job insecurity was not directly related to the development of actual heart attacks, stroke, invasive heart procedures, or cardiovascular death.

“Intriguingly, women who were categorized using a standard job strain model as having active strain [high demand and high control] were also at increased risk of cardiovascular events, a group of women who typically would include physicians, executives, nurses, teachers, and managers,” said Albert. “From a public health perspective, it is crucial for employers as well as government and hospital entities to monitor perceived employee job strain and initiate strategies to manage job strain and perhaps positively impact prevention of heart disease and employee productivity.”

Researchers emphasize that more research is needed, particularly in multiethnic female populations, and on the impact of potential interventions to continue to investigate this link.

Explore further: Our jobs are making us sick

More information: Slopen N, Glynn RJ, Buring JE, Lewis TT, Williams DR, et al. (2012) Job Strain, Job Insecurity, and Incident Cardiovascular Disease in the Women's Health Study: Results from a 10-Year Prospective Study. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40512. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040512

Related Stories

Our jobs are making us sick

December 12, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- New research at ANU has revealed that poor work conditions can adversely affect people’s health.

Atrial fibrillation associated with increased risk of death and cardiovascular events in women

May 24, 2011
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have found that among women who are mostly healthy, those diagnosed with atrial fibrillation have an increased risk of death when compared to women without atrial fibrillation. ...

Job strain and overtime predict heart disease and mortality

August 29, 2011
A study presented today at the ESC Congress 2011 by Finnish researchers, showed that high job demands coupled with low job control to meet these demands, refer to a "high strain job" – a situation which is a risk for ...

Recommended for you

'Shapeshifter' that regulates blood clotting is visually captured for the first time

August 23, 2017
We are normally born with a highly sophisticated array of molecules that act as "sentries," constantly scanning our bodies for injuries such as cuts and bruises. One such molecular sentry, known as von Willebrand factor (VWF), ...

Dramatic new studies into inflammation in the infarcted heart could lead to changes in therapy

August 23, 2017
A medical research collaborative has demonstrated that the response of the human heart to an infarction is very different than previously thought. The study, led by cardiologist Borja Ibáñez and published as two independent ...

New molecule may hold the key to triggering the regeneration and repair of damaged heart cells

August 21, 2017
New research has discovered a potential means to trigger damaged heart cells to self-heal. The discovery could lead to groundbreaking forms of treatment for heart diseases. For the first time, researchers have identified ...

Researchers investigate the potential of spider silk protein for engineering artificial heart

August 18, 2017
Ever more people are suffering from cardiac insufficiency, despite significant advances in preventing and minimising damage to the heart. The main cause of reduced cardiac functionality lies in the irreversible loss of cardiac ...

Lasers used to detect risk of heart attack and stroke

August 18, 2017
Patients at risk of heart attacks and strokes may be spotted earlier thanks to a diagnosis tool that uses near-infrared light to identify high-risk arterial plaques, according to research carried out at WMG, University of ...

Cholesterol crystals are sure sign a heart attack may loom

August 17, 2017
A new Michigan State University study on 240 emergency room patients shows just how much of a role a person's cholesterol plays, when in a crystallized state, during a heart attack.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.