Reuters, via MSNBC, reports today on a study in the European Heart Journal on the
association between work-related stress and coronary heart disease. Science
Careers often reports on conditions that can cause conflict or stress, to help scientists and
engineers cope with their work conditions. But this research points out that
it’s the younger workers — not necessarily the old folks — who need to worry
about the impact of work stress on their hearts.
The study aimed to uncover the linkages between
stress at work and coronary heart disease, when combined with risk factors such
as smoking, lack of exercise, and poor diet. The research team from University
College London and St. George’s University of London studied some 10,300 British
civil servants aged 35 and older, through interviews, postal questionnaires, and
clinical examinations. The research covered a 20-year period, from 1985 to 2004.
The researchers measured work-related stress on
the surveys and questionnaires. They rated work conditions more stressful when
the demands of the job were high but the workers’ decision-making latitude was
low. The researchers also rated the degree of social isolation — the degree to
which workers faced by stressful conditions had no support from co-workers or
The researchers found an association between
higher work stress and coronary heart diseases such as heart attacks (myocardial
infarction) and angina. When dividing the subjects by age, they found that the
younger (through age 49) workers had a stronger association between work stress
and heart disease, while the 50+ age group showed little association.
Stressed-out workers also had lower heart-rate variability, a sign the heart is
functioning poorly, and higher levels of cortisol, a hormone found in stressful
("fight or flight") situations.
The researchers found that the lifestyles of the
subjects were also associated with heart disease. Subjects who smoked, exercised
little, and had diets low in fruits and vegetables reported higher rates of