Job stress has long been identified as a factor that can take a toll on a worker’s performance and health. Recent research from University College London (UCL) links it strongly to a killer – heart disease. When shift patterns and other workplace systems are designed around ergonomics principles, risk reduction is a key goal. The new research elevates stress from a serious risk factor to a potentially perilous one
Published in the European Heart Journal in January, the research is the first large-scale study to look at the cardiovascular mechanisms of work stress in the population. According to a UCL news release, the findings provide the strongest evidence yet of the way job stress can lead to coronary heart disease (CHD).
“Stress at work is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease but the mechanisms underlying this association have remained unclear until now,” explained Dr Tarani Chandola, a senior lecturer in UCL Epidemiology & Public Health and the lead author of the study. The findings showed that stress can lead to CHD directly, by activating stress pathways controlled by the interaction between the nervous system, the endocrine glands and their hormones (neuroendocrine mechanisms), or indirectly via its association with unhealthy lifestyles.
The research is part of the long-running Whitehall II study, which has been following 10,308 London-based civil servants since 1985.
The researchers collected evidence on the incidence of CHD, deaths from CHD, non-fatal myocardial infarctions, angina, heart rate variability and morning rises in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also looked at the metabolic syndrome and behavioral risk factors such as diet, exercise, smoking and drinking.
Dr. Chandola noted that during 12 years of follow-up the researchers found that chronic work stress was associated with CHD and this association was stronger among both men and women aged under 50. He added that their risk of CHD was an average of 68 percent more than for people who reported no stress at work.
Source: University College London