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Work stress, lifestyle and coronary artery disease (Europe)

June 14, 2013

A stressful work environment has been associated with a 25 per cent increased risk of developing heart conditions, however new research shows that a healthy lifestyle outside of work may mitigate its effects.

Researchers from University College London analyzed data from seven European studies that surveyed 102,000 people about their lifestyle and their work environments. All of the participants were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study, however one in six reported stress in their place of employment.

Seven years into the study there were 1,100 cardiac incidents resulting in heart attack or death. After ten years, the incidence of heart problems among those with job strain and an unhealthy lifestyle was 31 cases per 1,000 as opposed to 12 cases per 1,000 in those who were generally healthy and did not report stress at work.

More specifically, researchers estimated that four per cent of heart attacks/deaths were directly related to job strain and approximately 26 per cent to unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a day. Study participants who experienced job strain but otherwise led healthy lifestyles, had almost 50 per cent less risk of heart attack or death.

Since job-related stress may be unavoidable, this research provides additional incentive for people to exercise, give up smoking, and drink in moderation.

You can read the abstract, “Associations of job strain and lifestyle risk factors with risk of coronary artery disease: A meta-analysis of individual participant data” online in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The Globe and Mail article, “Lifestyle change may ease heart risk from job stress” is available online.

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