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

September 13, 2012

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"The pooling of published and unpublished studies allowed us to investigate the association between (CHD) and exposure to [defined by high and low decision control] with greater precision than has been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."

Explore further: Higher job strain associated with increased cardiovascular risk for women

Related Stories

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 ...

Recommended for you

Low-salt and heart-healthy dash diet as effective as drugs for some adults with high blood pressure

November 22, 2017
A study of more than 400 adults with prehypertension, or stage 1 high blood pressure, found that combining a low-salt diet with the heart-healthy DASH diet substantially lowers systolic blood pressure—the top number in ...

Stroke patients may have more time to get treatment, study finds

November 22, 2017
Patients and doctors long have relied on a simple rule of thumb for seeking care after an ischemic stroke: "Time is brain."

Cases of heart failure continue to rise; poorest people worst affected

November 22, 2017
The number of people being diagnosed with heart failure in the UK continues to rise as a result of demographic changes common to many developed countries, new research by The George Institute for Global Health at the University ...

Some cancer therapies may provide a new way to treat high blood pressure

November 20, 2017
Drugs designed to halt cancer growth may offer a new way to control high blood pressure (hypertension), say Georgetown University Medical Center investigators. The finding could offer a real advance in hypertension treatment ...

Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?

November 17, 2017
The buildup of plaque in the heart's arteries is an unfortunate part of aging. But by studying the genetic makeup of people who maintain clear arteries into old age, researchers led by UNC's Jonathan Schisler, PhD, have identified ...

Raising 'good' cholesterol fails to protect against heart disease

November 16, 2017
Raising so-called 'good' cholesterol by blocking a key protein involved in its metabolism does not protect against heart disease or stroke, according to a large genetic study of 150,000 Chinese adults published in the journal ...

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.