11:30pm Wednesday 08 July 2020

Women with High Job Strain Have Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Job strain, a form of psychological stress, is defined as having a demanding job that provides limited opportunity for decision making or to use one’s creative or individual skills.  The study also found that job insecurity or fear of losing one’s job and job strain were both associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, increased cholesterol and excess body weight.  However, unlike job strain, job insecurity was not directly related to the development of actual heart attacks, stroke, invasive heart procedures or cardiovascular death.

Previous long term studies of job strain and heart disease risk have mainly focused on men and a more restricted set of cardiovascular conditions.  According the study’s senior author, associate physician/Cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston Mass, Michelle A. Albert, M.D  M.P.H , ” our study indicates that there are possibly immediate and definite long term clinically documented cardiovascular health effects of job strain in women; your job can positively and negatively affect health making it of importance for women and their health care providers to pay attention to the stresses of their job as part of the total health package”.

Researchers analyzed information about job strain and heart disease from 17, 415 healthy women over 10 years of who participated in the landmark Women’s Health Study.  The women were primarily Caucasian health professionals with an average age of 57 years old who provided information about heart disease risk factors, job strain and job insecurity.  A standard questionnaire was used to evaluate job strain and job insecurity that asked for responses to questions such as ” My job requires working very fast”, “My job requires working very hard” and “I am free from competing demands that others make”. 

Natalie Slopen, Sc.D, lead researcher and a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University Center on the Developing Child noted that “women in jobs characterized by high demands and low control as well as jobs with high demands and high sense of control are at higher risk for heart disease long term”.  Added Dr. Albert, “from a public health perspective, it is crucial for employers as well as government and hospital entities to monitor perceived employee job strain and initiate strategies to manage job strain and perhaps positively impact prevention of heart disease, employee productivity and business competitiveness”. 

Co-authors are Robert Glynn Ph.D and Julie Buring, ScD.  Author disclosures are on the abstract.

The National Institutes of Health funded the Women’s Health Study.

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