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November 17, 2010

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Job strain link to heart disease in women

Women who report having high job strain have a 40-per-cent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, compared with those with low job strain.

This is the conclusion of research presented at this month’s American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions.

Researchers also found that job insecurity – the fear of losing one’s job – was associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, increased cholesterol and excess body weight. However, it’s not directly associated with heart attacks, stroke, invasive heart procedures, or cardiovascular death.

Job strain – defined as having a demanding job, but little or no decision-making authority, or opportunities to use one’s creative skills – was analysed in 17,415 healthy women who participated in the Women’s Health Study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The women were primarily Caucasian health professionals, with an average age of 57. They provided information about heart-disease risk factors, job strain and job insecurity, and were monitored for more than 10 years to track the development of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers used a standard questionnaire to evaluate job strain and job insecurity, with statements such as: “My job requires working very fast”; “My job requires working very hard”; and “I am free from competing demands that others make”.

The risks for women who reported high job strain included heart attacks, ischaemic strokes, coronary-artery bypass surgery or balloon angioplasty, and death. The increased risk of heart attack was about 88 per cent, while the risk of bypass surgery or invasive procedure was about 43 per cent.

The study’s senior author and associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Michelle Albert, 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.”

She added: “From a public-health perspective, it’s crucial for employers, potential patients, as well as government and hospital entities to monitor perceived employee job strain and initiate programs to alleviate job strain and, perhaps, positively impact prevention of heart disease.”

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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13 years ago

The signs and symptoms of heart disease in women are more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries, but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart, a condition called small vessel heart disease.