Women are 40% more likely to have heart attacks, ischemic stroke, require treatment for blocked arteries and suffer from cardiovascular disease if they are in highly stressful jobs, compared to women whose occupations are not stressful, researchers at and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass., USA explained at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2010, Chicago today. The presenters added that fear job insecurity is associated with a higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure, raised blood cholesterol levels and overweight.

The researchers referred to job strain, which is when the job demands are high and job decision latitude is low. In other words, when a person has a demanding job but lacks the decision-making authority or chances to apply their own individual or creative skills.

Senior study author, Michelle A. Albert, M.D., M.P.H., said:
    "Our study indicates that there are both immediate and long-term clinically documented cardiovascular health effects of job strain in women. Your job can positively and negatively affect health, making it important to pay attention to the stresses of your job as part of your total health package."
Albert and team examined job strain in 17,415 women who took part in the Women's Health Study. They were all healthy individuals at the beginning of the study. The majority of them were Caucasian, health professionals, with an average age of 57 years. The Study had details on their heart disease risk factors, including job strain and job insecurity.

All the women were followed up for at least 10 years for cardiovascular disease. A questionnaire was used to gauge job insecurity and job strain. Examples of questions in the questionnaire were "My job requires working very fast," "My job requires working very hard," "I am free from competing demands others make."

The women who said they had high job strain were found to have a 40% higher risk of:
  • Heart attack
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Needing coronary bypass surgery
  • Needing balloon angioplasty
  • Dying prematurely
Lead researcher, Natalie Slopen, Sc.D., said:
    "Women in jobs characterized by high demands and low control, as well as jobs with high demands but a high sense of control are at higher risk for heart disease long term."
The investigators explain that prior studies focused mainly on males and a narrower set of cardiovascular diseases.

Albert said:
    "From a public health perspective, it's crucial for employers, potential patients, as well as government and hospitals entities to monitor perceived employee job strain and initiate programs to alleviate job strain and perhaps positively impact prevention of heart disease."
Source: American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2010

Written by Christian Nordqvist