published : 2023-09-24

Men's Heart Disease Risk Doubles with These Types of Job Strain, Says New Study

Combination of Certain Stressors Had an Impact Similar to Obesity on the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

Men working in a high-stress office environment, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Men who experience job strain and report putting in high effort only to receive little reward have twice the risk of heart disease compared to those who do not have these psychological stressors, according to a new study by Canadian researchers. The study was published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Job strain refers to work environments where employees face a combination of high job demands and low control over their work. This includes a heavy workload, tight deadlines, numerous responsibilities, and little say in decision-making and task performance.

The study followed nearly 6,500 white-collar workers in Canada for 18 years, from 2000 to 2018. Men who reported experiencing job strain or effort-reward imbalance had a 49% higher risk of heart disease compared to men who did not have these stressors.

A man managing a heavy workload and tight deadlines, taken with a Nikon D850

The researchers used questionnaires to measure job strain and effort-reward imbalance among the participants. They also looked at heart disease information from existing health databases.

Interventions aimed at reducing stressors from the work environment could be particularly effective for men and could also have positive implications for women. These stress factors are associated with other prevalent health issues, such as depression.

Promoting work-life balance, improving communication, empowering employees to have more control over their work, and providing support resources are potential interventions to mitigate work stress.

A group of employees engaged in a meeting to improve communication in the workplace, taken with a Sony Alpha A7 III

The study's chief limitation is that it focused on men and women in white-collar jobs in Quebec, Canada, and may not fully represent the diversity of the American working population.

The U.S. workforce is among the most stressed in the world, and workplace stressors can be as harmful to health as obesity and secondhand smoke. Addressing workplace stressors collectively can contribute to a healthier work environment and reduced risks to heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with one person dying every 33 seconds from cardiovascular disease. About 695,000 people died from heart disease in the country in 2021.