Job strain, according to a new study published in the Lancet, a well-respected medical journal, can increase the risk of a fatal heart attack.
The findings are of tremendous importance now due to the high levels of unemployment in many countries due to the global economic crisis: people who do have jobs are under pressure to perform well at all times or they risk losing their jobs.
The European study examined several previous studies which had been done between 1986 and 2006, and evaluated the data of 200,000 patients. The researchers discovered that people who have high-stress, demanding jobs with little or no input in decision making were 23 per cent more likely to have a heart attack. The result held true no matter what the age, gender, or socioeconomic status of the patient was, this risk is increased for all groups.
The researchers suspect that the psychological wear and tear of the “flight or fight” mode that can be triggered by highly stressful situations may be responsible for the increased risk of fatal heart attacks.
“The [theory] that work stress influences heart health is more than 30 years old,” said Mika Kivimaki, lead study author from University College London. “[But] the pooling of published and unpublished studies allowed us to investigate [this] with greater precision than has been previously possible.”
Duke University Medical Center’s director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center Dr. Redford Williams stated that many may ponder what can be done regarding the findings.
“I think this is an area where changing the job situation may not be something that we have that much control over,” he said. (Williams was not a part of the study’s research team). “It may be in the long run that [we need] an alternative approach, rather than changing the work environment, that might focus on workers, try to train them in coping skills.”