Researchers from Harvard Medical School have released a new study that shows that women with stressful jobs are nearly twice as likely to have a heart attack as those in more peaceful work environments. While stress has long been known to be a trigger for cardiac arrest, the new study suggests that stress may actually have a larger influence over such heart issues than previously understood. According to the study, workplace stress can also responsible for other health problems, including high cholesterol.
The researchers came to their conclusions about the impact of high stress jobs on women’s health by analyzing medical data and surveys from the past ten years. More than 17,000 women in the health profession were included in the data reviewed. Furthermore, all of the individuals were in their 50s and 60s at the onset of the study.
According to the study, those at the most risk for cardiac issues were women who said their jobs required them to work either “very hard” or “very fast,” in addition to having very little control over their workday and the situations for which they are responsible. The combination of the two characteristics is known as “job strain.” In those instances, study participants were shown to be 88% more likely to experience a heart attack, in comparison with women in less stressful positions.
Researchers analyzed multiple factors in determining the risk factors of the women involved in the study. Social situations, age, race, income, and education all influenced the risk of the participants. Furthermore, the state of each woman’s health was taken into account, including blood pressure and body weight data.
In spite of the fact that all individuals involved were members of the healthcare workforce, the study’s lead author, Michelle Albert, MD, emphasized the wide array of different situations specific to each participant in the study group. Albert, who works as a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, called the group “very socioeconomically diverse.” The women involved included those working as doctors, nurses, researchers, and dietitians.
The study is unique in that it focused on stress levels amongst females in the modern workplace. Much of the previous research on stress levels in relation to risk for cardiac problems has been focused on men. This study shows that men and women are susceptible to the same trauma for excessive amounts of stress, and sheds light on the importance of alleviating unnecessary pressure on both sexes.
Upon reviewing the conclusions of the researchers involved, doctors have agreed that further steps need to be taken to minimize workplace stress. According to Paul Landsbergis, PhD, who works at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, “the results certainly imply that we need to do more to make jobs healthier.” Other medical practitioners have suggested taking measures like increasing exercise time and taking time to relax throughout the day. Landsbergis further suggests that women should gain more control over their work environments, through the use of “collective bargaining” techniques.