Stressful jobs tied to small increase in stroke risk

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Up to one in four jobs are “high strain,” and people in these lines of work may be at increased risk of stroke, according to a new analysis of past research.

Based on studies that included nearly 140,000 participants, researchers found an overall 22 percent higher stroke risk among those in high-strain jobs versus low-strain occupations. In some cases, the risk was elevated by up to 58 percent.

Plenty of research has linked job strain to heart disease in general and high blood pressure in particular, he and his coauthors note in Neurology. Using a well-established formula, these kinds of studies usually define high-strain jobs as those with high demands and little control over decision-making.

Xu’s team considered the data from six studies involving a total of 138,782 participants who were followed for three to 17 years. They used an existing system to classify job stress based on demands, such as time pressure, mental load or coordination, and control, such as the worker’s ability to decide when or how they complete tasks.

According to these categories, passive jobs, like janitors or manual laborers, have low demands and low control. Low stress jobs, like architects or scientists, have low demand and high control. Active jobs, like doctors, teachers and engineers, have high demand and high control.

None of those types of jobs were tied to an increase in stroke risk in the new study, but people with high stress jobs involving high demand and low control, like waitresses and nurses, were 22 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than people with low stress jobs.

 

But other factors like smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes are still “off the chart more important,” she told Reuters Health.

 

“Things like telecommuting, flexible work hours, allowing decision making to not be as top heavy, allowing people to make decisions about their own jobs,” would be an amazing public health intervention, she said.

SOURCE: Kathryn Doyle, Neurology, (October 14, 2015) bit.ly/NwhhyY.

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