Job frustrations can be a heartbreaker for men.

Job frustrations can be a heartbreaker for men.

The Impact of Job Stress on Men’s Heart Health

Heart Disease

A new study suggests that a job that is demanding but offers little reward can have a significant impact on a man’s heart health. The study, which included nearly 6,500 white-collar workers, found that men who experienced chronic stress at work had up to double the risk of developing heart disease compared to their more content peers.

The researchers identified two main types of job stress: “job strain” and “effort-reward imbalance.” Job strain refers to when workers feel pressure to perform but have little control over how to accomplish their tasks. Effort-reward imbalance, on the other hand, occurs when employees feel that their efforts are not adequately appreciated or rewarded financially, through promotion, recognition, or job satisfaction.

Men who reported either type of job stress were approximately 50% more likely to develop coronary heart disease over the next 18 years compared to men who felt happier in their jobs. Surprisingly, the study did not find a similar effect among women.

The lead researcher of the study, Mathilde Lavigne-Robichaud, explained that chronic stress can directly affect the cardiovascular system. Job strain and effort-reward imbalance can trigger physical responses such as increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and narrowed blood vessels in the heart. These responses make the heart work harder and can lead to problems with blood flow and heart rhythm, ultimately increasing the risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, work-related stress can indirectly harm the heart by interfering with healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and relaxation time. This suggests that if it is difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle due to work stress, it may further exacerbate the direct effects of stress on the cardiovascular system.

Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, the chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association, pointed out that chronic stress can be as harmful to the cardiovascular system as obesity or exposure to secondhand smoke. The American Heart Association recognizes the significance of workplace stress and has previously provided guidance for employers on implementing resilience training programs to address employees’ stress levels.

The study involved nearly 6,500 white-collar workers in Quebec who were initially free of heart disease and had an average age of 45. Over the following 18 years, 571 men and 265 women experienced a first-time coronary heart disease event, such as a heart attack or severe chest pain caused by blocked heart arteries.

Even after accounting for other factors such as education level, marital status, smoking and drinking habits, and health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, the researchers found a clear association between perceived job stress and an increased risk of future heart disease. It is worth noting that this link was only observed among men, possibly due to differences in the age at which women typically develop heart disease.

Lavigne-Robichaud emphasized that comprehensive workplace wellness programs, which may include health screenings and providing nutritious food options, are already encouraged by organizations such as the American Heart Association. However, she suggested that incorporating interventions specifically aimed at reducing workplace stress into these programs could help prevent heart disease.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, highlighting the urgent need for employers to prioritize heart health and implement strategies to reduce stress in the workplace.

For more information on stress management, the American Heart Association offers guidance and resources to help individuals effectively manage stress and maintain a healthy heart.

Sources: – Mathilde Lavigne-Robichaud, doctoral candidate, CHU de Quebec-University Laval Research Center, Quebec, Canada – Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH, chief medical officer for prevention, American Heart Association, Dallas – Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, Sept. 19, 2023