Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Job strain combined, high efforts and low reward double heart disease risk

DALLAS (Newswise) — “The U.S. workforce is among the most stressed in the world, and these workplace stressors can be as harmful to health as obesity and secondhand smoke,” Eduardo J. Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA, FAAFP, chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association. “

Men who say they have stressful jobs and also feel they exert high efforts for low reward had double the risk of heart disease compared to men free of those stressors, according to new research published today in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a peer-reviewed American Heart Association journal.

“Considering the significant amount of time people spend at work, understanding the relationship between work stressors and cardiovascular health is crucial for public health and workforce well-being,” said lead study author Mathilde Lavigne-Robichaud, R.D., M.S., doctoral candidate, Population Health and Optimal Health Practices Research Unit, CHU de Quebec-University Laval Research Center in Quebec, Canada.

The study highlights pressing needs to address stressful working conditions, and to create healthier work environments.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. according to American Heart Association statistics. In 2020, nearly 383,000 Americans died of heart disease.

 

These psychosocial stressors are each associated with heart disease risk and the combination was especially dangerous to men, finds study in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes journal. (Aaron Blanco Tejedor / Unsplash)

Research has shown that two psychosocial stressors — job strain and effort-reward imbalance at work — may increase heart disease risk. However, few studies have examined the combined effect.

Job strain refers to work environments where employees face a combination of high job demands and low control over their work. High demands can include a heavy workload, tight deadlines and numerous responsibilities, while low control means the employee has little say in decision-making and how they perform tasks, Lavigne-Robichaud explained.

Effort-reward imbalance occurs when employees invest high effort into their work, but they perceive the rewards they receive in return, such as salary, recognition or job security, as insufficient or unequal to their effort. “If you’re always going above and beyond, but you feel like you’re not getting the credit or rewards you deserve, that’s called effort-reward imbalance,” she said.

The study found that men who said they experienced either job strain or effort-reward imbalance had a 49% increase in risk of heart disease compared to men who didn’t report those stressors. Men reporting both job strain and effort-reward imbalance were at twice the risk of heart disease compared with men who did not say they were experiencing the combined stressors. In men, the impact of job strain and effort-reward imbalance combined was similar to the magnitude of the impact of obesity on the risk of coronary heart disease.

The impact of psychosocial stress at work on women’s heart health was inconclusive.
The research suggests that interventions to reduce stressors from the work environment could be particularly effective for men and could also have positive implications for women, as these stress factors are associated with other prevalent health issues such as depression, Lavigne-Robichaud said. “The study’s inability to establish a direct link between psychosocial job stressors and coronary heart disease in women signals the need for further investigation into the complex interplay of various stressors and women’s heart health.”

Interventions might include different approaches, such as providing support resources, promoting work-life balance, enhancing communication and empowering employees to have more control over their work, she said.

This study adds to the growing body of evidence that the workplace should be prioritized as a vehicle for advancing cardiovascular health for all. The American Heart Association remains committed to and engaged in providing employers with the resources and information they need to actively support the health of their employees and communities through science-backed changes to policy and culture.”

Researchers studied nearly 6,500 white-collar workers, average age about 45 years old, without heart disease, and followed them for 18 years, from 2000 to 2018. They studied health and workplace survey information for 3,118 men and 3,347 women in a wide range of jobs in Quebec.

The surveys included employees working in senior management, professional, technical and office workers roles. Education levels ranged from no high school diploma to university degree. Researchers measured job strain and effort-reward imbalance with results from proven questionnaires and retrieved heart disease information using established health databases.

The Quebec study findings may be relevant to white-collar workers in the United States and other high-income countries with similar job structures, according to Lavigne-Robichaud. Co-authors, disclosures and funding sources are listed in the manuscript.

Studies published in the American Heart Association’s scientific journals are peer-reviewed. The statements and conclusions in each manuscript are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the Association’s policy or position. The Association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability.

The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers and the Association’s overall financial information are available here.

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter)or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

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