Job Stress Is Linked To Heart Problems (PLUS Jobs That Are Bad For Your Health PICTURES)

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WORK STRESS
Are you feeling stressed at work? | Alamy

If that enticing job offer involves piling on the stress, it might pay to think again.

The popular idea that over-demanding work increases the risk of heart attacks has been confirmed by new research.
Scientists found that people in stressful jobs are 23% more likely to experience an event linked to heart disease than less stressed individuals.

They came to the conclusion after analysing data on almost 200,000 people from seven European countries.

"Our findings indicate that job strain is associated with a small but consistent increased risk of experiencing a first coronary heart disease event, such as a heart attack," said study leader Professor Mika Kivimaki, from University College London.

The researchers defined a stressful job as one involving high workload coupled with little freedom to make decisions.
People often link work stress to heart problems, but in reality previous research on the subject has been inconclusive.

The new investigation pooled together results from 13 European studies conducted in the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Sweden between 1985 and 2006.

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All the men and women taking part completed questionnaires about their jobs, workload, deadlines and freedom to make decisions. None had suffered a heart attack before providing the details.

Over an average follow-up period of 7.5 years, researchers recorded a total of 2,356 cases of heart disease events. These included hospital admissions due to heart attacks and deaths from heart disease.

The greater risk reported for people in stressful jobs remained after taking into account factors such as lifestyle, age, gender and socio-economic background.

The findings are published today in the latest online edition of The Lancet medical journal.

Prof Kivimaki said if the association was causal job stress probably accounted for a "notable proportion" of heart disease events in the working population.

"As such, reducing workplace stress might decrease disease incidence," he added.

But he pointed out that stress reduction would have a much smaller impact than tackling smoking and lack of exercise.

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Commenting on the results in the journal, Dr Bo Netterstrom, from Bispebjerg Hospital in the Netherlands, said: "Exposures such as job insecurity and factors related to social capital and emotions are likely to be of major importance in the future. The present economic crisis will almost certainly increase this importance."

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: "We know that being under stress at work, and being unable to change the situation, could increase your risk of developing heart disease.

"This large study confirms this, but also shows that the negative effect of workplace strain is much smaller than, for example, the damage caused by smoking or lack of exercise.

"Though stresses at work may be unavoidable, how you deal with these pressures is important, and lighting up a cigarette is bad news for your heart. Eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and quitting smoking will more than offset any risk associated with your job."

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Life coach Suzy Greaves told the NHS that a key skill to managing stress at work is learning how to say "no".

"I’m constantly challenging clients who say they have no choice but to overwork," she explains. "I coach people to become empowered and believe they have a choice."

She admits that while you can win brownie points in the short term by saying "yes", if you take on too much you risk being unable to deliver which will reflect badly.

Greaves says you should calculate how long you'll need to deal with your current workload so that you can see if you have any extra capacity.

“If you’re extremely busy and your boss asks you to do more, you can say no. Outline your reasons in a specific, measurable way, but always offer a solution,” she adds.