We’re all exposed to a large number of stresses in our professional and personal life, and very often stresses cause plenty of negative responses and biological effects in our body and mind. Despite the fact that mild and moderate stresses are considered useful and can play a role of motivators for greater achievements, chronic stresses are linked to numerous risks and harmful effects, including elevated risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular conditions, digestive disorders, psychological and mental disorders, sleep disorders, nervous disorders, and other serious health conditions. American scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found out that stressful jobs causing chronic stresses are especially dangerous in females. As their study has shown, the women who are exposed to high levels of stresses at work are at higher heart attack risk compared to those women who have relatively lower stresses at work.
The findings were published this summer in a peer-reviewed journal PLOS One. During the study, the scientists analyzed the data on 22086 women with a average age of 57, collected during Women’s Health Study. Women were asked to answer the questions related to their jobs, including the amounts of stresses, demands, strain, and other factors. Some questions had indirect meaning, like “Does your job require you to work very fast?”, etc. According to the answers of the participants, the four different groups of stressful jobs were created, taking into account two key factors, demand and control, at the workplace:
- High-strain jobs: low control and high demand
- Low-strain jobs: high control and low demand
- Passive jobs: low control and low demand
- Active jobs: high control and high demand
For the next 10 years, the participants of the study were followed. During this time span, 163 study participants were diagnosed with ischemic strokes, 170 women had myocardial infarction, 440 participants had coronary revascularizations (including both percutaneous coronary intervention and coronary artery bypass graft surgery), and 52 participants lost their lives due to a cardiovascular condition. After analyzing the final info and taking into account other related factors like age, race, smoking and other bad habits, education, income and economic status, etc., it became apparent that those women who have stressful jobs are at much higher risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular conditions compared to those women who are employed in passive and low-strain jobs, therefore, exposed to less stresses.
In particular, as the findings of the study have shown, the type of the job linked to the highest stress levels (high strain job) turned out to be the most dangerous from the point of cardiovascular diseases risk. The scientists reported that the women with the highest strain job have 70 per cent increased heart attack risk compared to the women who work in less stressful jobs. Besides, those women who are employed in active jobs with high demand and high levels of control are also under higher risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular conditions. Compared to the women who work in low-strain and passive jobs, those who have active jobs have 40 per cent higher heart attack risk. At the same time, the scientists reported that no links between job insecurity and heart attack risk in women.
The findings of the study, led by Dr. Michelle Albert, MD, board-certified internist and cardiologist, and Natalie Slopen, a research fellow at the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, have confirmed numerous previous conclusions about negative effects of stresses. “With the increase of women in the workforce, these data emphasize the importance of addressing job strain in cardiovascular disease prevention efforts among working women,” the authors of the report wrote. Other expert tried to estimate the reasons why stresses are affecting women more than men. “It might be that women have more stressors, because they tend to try and balance high-demand, high-control jobs with their family life more than men do,” said Dr. Helen L. Glassberg, an assistant professor and a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania.
She also underlined the importance of using the most effective stress management techniques and approaches (including aromatherapy, yoga, meditation,relaxation, regular physical exercises, outdoor activities, hobbies, art, support groups, and so on) for all modern women who want to lower their risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases, regardless of how stressful their jobs are. Find more information about the objectives, methods, conclusions and other details about the study by the expert group at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, in this report.
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