Studies link high stress jobs to higher risks of developing stroke

A study published on October 14, 2015, in the journal Neurology – a medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, states that greater risks of developing stroke has been linked to high-stress jobs, and several independent studies support this research.

The research team examined factors that cause stresses on the job and how these relate to developing emotional strains and medical stroke. They also analyzed six earlier studies which involved 138,782 participants who were monitored for 3 to 17 years to see how they fared for the study.

The authors of the study grouped jobs into four classifications based on how much control workers had on the job and how hard they worked, taking into consideration the psychological demands of the job. To do a better job, the demands of a job included time pressure, mental load, and coordination burdens; but factors of number of hours worked or amount of physical labor were not included for the study.

“Having a lot of job stress has been linked to heart disease, but studies on job stress and stroke have shown inconsistent results,” said Dingli Xu, MD, with Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China. “It’s possible that high stress jobs lead to more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking and a lack of exercise.”

The researchers established passive jobs with low demand and low control – janitors, miners, and manual laborers. Low stress jobs with low demand and high control – natural scientists and architects. High stress jobs with high demand and low control – waitresses, nursing aides, service industry. Active jobs with high demand and high control – doctors, teachers, and engineers.

People working high stress jobs had 22% higher risks of stroke that people with low stress jobs; and women with high stress jobs had 33% higher risk of stroke than women with low stress jobs. Others with high stress jobs had 58% higher risks of stroke than those with low stress jobs. While 4.4% risks of stroke was linked to high stress jobs, it increased to 6.5% for women.

According to Jennifer J. Majersik, MD, MS, with the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, this study made it reasonable to consider testing interventions aimed at increasing job control, such as decentralization of decision-making and flexibility in job structure, such as telecommuting. If effective, such workplace changes could have a major public health impact.


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