Study: Work-related stress raises risk of heart attacks

2008-01-23 00:12:32 Xinhua English

BEIJING, Jan. 23 (Xinhuanet) -- A new study released Wednesday in the European Heart Journal said work-related stress can increase the risk of heart attacks by undermining the body's natural mechanisms for coping under pressure.

"This is the first large-scale population study looking at the effects of stress measured from everyday working life on heart disease," said Dr Tarani Chandola, a senior lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London, who led the study.

"One of the problems is people have been skeptical whether work stress really affects a person biologically," Chandola added, suggesting stress-induced biological changes may play a more direct role than previously thought.

The research is part of the long-running Whitehall II study, which has been following 10,308 London-based civil servants aged between 35 and 55 since 1985.

The study was focused on the specific changes to the nervous system and the body's hormone levels that cause the increased risk.

Researchers found that employees with heavy workloads and little control over decisions that affect their professional lives were found to be 68 percent more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who had easier jobs.

The link was strongest among people under 50, Chandola said.

"This study adds to the evidence that the work stress-coronary heart disease association is causal in nature," the researchers said.

They also found that high workplace demands also encourage smoking, poor diet and a lack of physical activity -- all linked to increased danger of heart disease.