THURSDAY July 19, 2012 — Women with demanding jobs that provide few opportunities to make decisions or use their creativity are at increased risk for heart attacks, according to new research.
For the study, researchers analyzed data provided by 22,000 women over 10 years regarding their job strain, job insecurity and other health and lifestyle information. Most participants were white health professionals. The women, whose average age was 57, answered questions about the pace of their workday, how hard they worked and to what extent they had to juggle competing demands.
After taking into account factors such as age, race and income, the investigators found that women with high job strain were 38 percent more likely to have heart-related events, such as stroke, heart surgery to clear blockages, or death. Heart attack risk was 70 percent higher, according to the report published July 18 in PLoS ONE.
Women who had highly stressful jobs but who also had a lot of control over their work — such as physicians, executives, nurses, teachers and managers — also had higher risk of cardiovascular events, according to the researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“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 Dr. Michelle Albert, a cardiologist and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
“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,” Albert explained in a news release from Partners HealthCare.
While the researchers found an association between stress at work and heart attacks, they did not prove that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between job strain and heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems.