Work stress doubles risk of death from heart disease

Work stress is associated with a doubling of the risk of death from heart disease, finds a study in this week’s BMJ.

Researchers followed 812 healthy employees (545 men, 267 women) of a company in Finland for an average of 25 years. They gathered data on stress, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body mass index by questionnaire, interviews, and clinical examinations. Cardiovascular deaths were calculated using the national mortality register.

They found that job strain (high work demands and low job control) and effort-reward imbalance (high demands, low security, few career opportunities) were each associated with a doubling of the risk of cardiovascular death among initially healthy employees. High job stress was also associated with increased cholesterol concentrations and body mass index.

In promoting cardiovascular health, the traditional advice has been for people to stop smoking, cut down drinking, eat less fat, and engage in physical activity. These findings suggest that attention should also be paid to the prevention of work stress, conclude the authors.

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