Menus Subscribe Search
stress-level

(ILLUSTRATION: OLIVIER LE MOAL/SHUTTERSTOCK)

How to Stay Healthy Even if You Can’t Avoid Stress on the Job

• May 30, 2013 • 8:00 AM

(ILLUSTRATION: OLIVIER LE MOAL/SHUTTERSTOCK)

One researcher, who recognized that avoiding stress at work was, for some, completely unrealistic, went looking for alternatives.

Being under stress at work is tied to a higher risk of heart problems, new research confirms—but putting down the beer bottle and going for a walk may help.

Researchers found that job strain—defined as having a lot of demands at work, but little control—was tied at a 25 percent higher chance of having a heart attack or dying of heart problems. But heart risks were cut in half among people—stressed or not—who maintained a healthy lifestyle compared to those who drank, smoked, or were obese.

“For many people avoidance of work stress is unrealistic,” lead researcher Mika Kivimaki, from University College London, told Reuters Health in an email. “Thus, we wanted to ask the question whether adopting an otherwise healthy lifestyle would reduce heart disease risk among those with job strain,” he said.

“If you’re stuck being stressed at work, at least go out and exercise, don’t smoke, and eat healthy.”

Kivimaki and his colleagues combined the results of seven European studies that surveyed 102,000 people about their general lifestyle habits and health, including how much strain they were under at work. None of those participants had heart disease at the start of the study. Over the next seven years, on average, there were about 1,100 heart attacks or deaths from heart disease across the trials.

About one in six people in the studies initially reported being under job strain.

Rates of heart problems over a decade ranged from 12 cases per 1,000 generally healthy people without job strain to 31 per 1,000 people with job strain and multiple lifestyle risks, such as rarely exercising or having more than three or four alcoholic drinks a day.

Kivimaki’s team calculated that close to four percent of all heart attacks and heart disease deaths could be attributed to job strain and about 26 percent to drinking, smoking, obesity, and lack of physical activity.

The researchers wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that for people with stressful jobs, adopting a healthier lifestyle may be a strategy to lower heart risks.

“We hope this message reaches those who want to reduce their heart disease risk but feel they cannot avoid work stress,” Kivimaki said.

One researcher who has studied work stress and heart disease separately said the new review may underestimate the link between job strain and heart disease.

OTHER FACTORS?
Paul Landsbergis of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, said other types of job stress that may influence heart risks—such as having low social support and job insecurity—weren’t taken into account.

The new study doesn’t prove pressure at work caused heart problems. But cardiologist Dr. Vincent Figueredo from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia said the results are in line with past studies suggesting that chronic stress, including from job strain, can have negative health effects. “With chronic stress, there’s activation of these systems that can have long-term effects on things like insulin resistance, central obesity, (and) high blood pressure,” Figueredo, who wasn’t involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.

What this review adds, he said, is that workers may be able to do something about those extra risks. “It does offer some hope for those people who do have that job strain they can’t do anything about at work,” Figueredo said. “If you’re stuck being stressed at work, at least go out and exercise, don’t smoke, and eat healthy.”

Genevra Pittman

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 19 • 4:00 PM

In Your Own Words: What It’s Like to Get Sued Over Past Debts

Some describe their surprise when they were sued after falling behind on medical and credit card bills.



September 19 • 1:26 PM

For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won’t change minds.


September 19 • 12:00 PM

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.


September 19 • 10:00 AM

Why the Poor Remain Poor

A follow-up to “How Being Poor Makes You Poor.”


September 19 • 9:03 AM

Why Science Won’t Defeat Ebola

While science will certainly help, winning the battle against Ebola is a social challenge.


September 19 • 8:00 AM

Burrito Treason in the Lone Star State

Did Meatless Mondays bring down Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples?


September 19 • 7:31 AM

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.


September 19 • 6:00 AM

The Most Untouchable Man in Sports

How the head of the governing body for the world’s most popular sport freely wields his wildly incompetent power.


September 19 • 4:00 AM

The Danger of Dining With an Overweight Companion

There’s a good chance you’ll eat more unhealthy food.



September 18 • 4:00 PM

Racial Disparity in Imprisonment Inspires White People to Be Even More Tough on Crime

White Americans are more comfortable with punitive and harsh policing and sentencing when they imagine that the people being policed and put in prison are black.



September 18 • 2:00 PM

The Wages of Millions Are Being Seized to Pay Past Debts

A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans.


September 18 • 12:00 PM

When Counterfeit and Contaminated Drugs Are Deadly

The cost and the crackdown, worldwide.


September 18 • 10:00 AM

How Do You Make a Living, Molly Crabapple?

Noah Davis talks to Molly Crapabble about Michelangelo, the Medicis, and the tension between making art and making money.


September 18 • 9:00 AM

Um, Why Are These Professors Creeping on My Facebook Page?

The ethics of student-teacher “intimacy”—on campus and on social media.


September 18 • 8:00 AM

Welcome to the Economy Economy

With the recent introduction of Apple Pay, the Silicon Valley giant is promising to remake how we interact with money. Could iCoin be next?



September 18 • 6:09 AM

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.


September 18 • 6:00 AM

Homeless on Purpose

The latest entry in a series of interviews about subculture in America.


September 18 • 4:00 AM

Why Original Artworks Move Us More Than Reproductions

Researchers present evidence that hand-created artworks convey an almost magical sense of the artist’s essence.


September 17 • 4:00 PM

Why Gun Control Groups Have Moved Away From an Assault Weapons Ban

A decade after the ban expired, gun control groups say that focusing on other policies will save more American lives.


September 17 • 2:00 PM

Can You Make Two People Like Each Other Just By Telling Them That They Should?

OKCupid manipulates user data in an attempt to find out.


September 17 • 12:00 PM

Understanding ISIL Messaging Through Behavioral Science

By generating propaganda that taps into individuals’ emotional and cognitive states, ISIL is better able motivate people to join their jihad.


Follow us


For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won't change minds.

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.

Do Conspiracy Theorists Feed on Unsuspecting Internet Trolls?

Not literally, but debunkers and satirists do fuel conspiracy theorists' appetites.

The Big One

One in three drivers in Brooklyn's Park Slope—at certain times of day—is just looking for parking. The same goes for drivers in Manhattan's SoHo. September/October 2014 new-big-one-3

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.