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Stressful Jobs Increase Stroke Risk

🕑 2 minutes read
Posted November 9, 2015

If you are worried about your stress levels, it might be time to look for a low-stress job. A new study from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China links high-stress jobs to a higher risk of stroke, with an increased risk of stroke for women. The study does not reveal why there is an association between stroke risk and job stress, but the findings suggest that individuals may be able to mitigate stroke risk by reducing stress.

The study was a meta-analysis of research about job strain and stroke risk. The six studies the research team analyzed had a combined total of 138,782 participants who were followed for 3 to 17 years. To examine how certain types of jobs impacted stroke risk, they categorized jobs based on the level of control workers had in the position and the psychological demands of the job. The four categories were:

  • Passive jobs: low demand and low control (janitors, miners, manual laborers)
  • Low-stress jobs: low demand and high control (natural scientists, architects)
  • High-stress jobs: high demand and low control (waitresses, nursing aides)
  • Active jobs: high demand and high control (teachers, doctors, engineers)

High-stress jobs increased stroke risk, particularly for women. Men with high-stress jobs had a 22 percent higher stroke risk than people with low-stress jobs. Women with high-stress jobs had a 33 percent higher stroke risk than women with low-stress jobs. Compared to individuals in low-stress jobs, people in high-stress jobs were 58 percent more likely to have an ischemic stroke. The researchers calculate that 4.4 percent of the stroke risk for men was because of high-stress work. For women, work accounted for 6.5 percent of the stroke risk.

Individuals in passive and active jobs did not have an increased stroke risk.

The analysis does not clarify why stroke and work stress are connected. Dingli Xu, MD, of Southern Medical University explains that “Having a lot of job stress has been linked to heart disease, but studies on job stress and stroke have shown inconsistent results. It’s possible that high stress jobs lead to more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking and a lack of exercise.”

This research is published in the journal Neurology.

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