There have been numerous studies conducted on job-related stress and how it affects overall health and well-being. Many of the studies have focused on mental health while others have focused on physical health. Some have even explored mental well-being via the influence of job stress and strain on physical health. Although there is a wide body of research on this topic, indications of direct job stress outcomes are unclear.
To add to the existing literature, Solia T. Nyberg of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health at Helsinki recently analyzed eight existing studies on job strain and health outcomes. The analyses included data from over 47,000 adults and examined lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical activity, alcohol use, and obesity. It also included demographic data such as socioeconomic status and gender. Finally, Nyberg looked at specific physical indicators including blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and lipid counts as predictors or risk factors for heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.
The results revealed that although there were no direct links between job strain and heart disease or cancer, there were increased numbers of diabetes cases among participants with high levels of job strain. Measurements of blood lipids and blood pressure did not indicate risk factors for heart disease in those highly stressed individuals, but blood glucose levels were elevated in those participants with high levels of job strain.
Further investigations revealed that women were more likely to have diabetes as a result of job strain than men. Job strain did negatively impact physical activity and positively impact obesity, alcohol use and smoking. Nyberg believes that perhaps these lifestyle factors could act as an indirect path to negative physical health outcomes and, in the long term, could lead to higher risk for heart disease and other physical health problems.
In sum, this evidence does not support a direct link between job strain and heart disease or cancer, but does suggest a link between job strain and diabetes, especially for women. Nyberg added, “The main emphasis of future mechanistic investigations of job strain and cardiovascular disease risk should be placed on examining diabetes and lifestyle factors rather than standard cardiovascular risk factors.”
Nyberg, S.T., Fransson, E.I., Heikkilä, K., Alfredsson, L., Casini, A., et al. (2013). Job strain and cardiovascular disease risk factors: Meta-analysis of individual-participant data from 47,000 men and women. PLoS ONE 8(6): e67323. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067323
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