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Work stress can double men’s risk of heart disease, study shows

Work-related stress is bad for more than just your mental health, especially if you’re a man. While research has long shown that job strain can take a toll on workers’ psychological and physical well-being, a new study finds that it actually increases men’s risk for heart disease.

Job stressors, including heavy workloads, tight deadlines and environments that take autonomy away from workers, constitute job strain that’s severe enough to hurt workers’ heart health.

Putting effort into a job where you don’t feel you are appropriately rewarded, a predicament referred to as “effort-reward imbalance,” also has serious negative effects on heart health.

“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 the effort,” lead study author Mathilde Lavigne-Robichaud, a doctoral candidate in population health at CHU de Quebec-University Laval Research Center, said in statement.

Male workers who experienced either job strain or effort-reward imbalance were 49% more likely to have heart disease compared to men without those stressors, the study published Tuesday in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found.

Men in both job predicaments were twice as likely to have heart disease compared with men who did not experience the two stressors simultaneously.

Job stress comparable to obesity

The negative health effects of job strain, coupled with effort-reward imbalance at work are roughly equivalent to the effects of obesity on the risk of coronary heart disease, researchers found.

“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,” Lavigne-Robichaud stated. “Our study highlights the pressing need to proactively address stressful working conditions, to create healthier work environments that benefit employees and employers.”

The study is one of few that examines the compounded effects of job strain combined with other undesirable job attributes like low pay or little to no flexibility.

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“Job strain refers to work environments where employees face a combination of high job demands and low control over their work,” she added.

Researchers followed more than 6,400 white-collar workers in Canada without cardiovascular disease with an average age of 45 between 2000 and 2018. They measured levels of job strain and effort-reward imbalance relative to the incidence of heart disease. Results among women were inconclusive, the study found.

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