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Men, Be Warned – This Could Increase Your Risk of Developing Heart Disease by 49%, Says New Study

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For men, it is “as harmful to health as obesity and secondhand smoke,” according to new research.

High job demands and low rewards double the heart disease risk in men as shown by a new study published today in the Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes journal.

A new study in the Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes journal has unveiled that men who face stressful job environments and believe they work hard but receive insufficient rewards are twice as likely to develop heart disease than their unstressed counterparts.

“Considering the significant amount of time people spend at work, understanding the relationship between work stressors and cardiovascular health is crucial for public health and workforce well-being,” emphasized Mathilde Lavigne-Robichaud, the lead author of the study from the CHU de Quebec-University Laval Research Center, Quebec, Canada.

The results of the study show “the pressing need to proactively address stressful working conditions, to create healthier work environments that benefit employees and employers.”

The American Heart Association has highlighted heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming approximately 383,000 lives in 2020. Previous research indicated potential links between heart disease and two work-related stress factors: job strain and the imbalance between efforts and rewards. This new study further explores their combined effects.

“Job strain refers to work environments where employees face a combination of high job demands and low control over their work. High demands can include a heavy workload, tight deadlines and numerous responsibilities, while low control means the employee has little say in decision-making and how they perform their tasks,” added Lavigne-Robichaud.

“Effort-reward imbalance occurs when employees invest high effort into their work, but they perceive the rewards they receive in return — such as salary, recognition or job security — as insufficient or unequal to the effort. For instance, if you’re always going above and beyond, but you feel like you’re not getting the credit or rewards you deserve, that’s called effort-reward imbalance.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • Men experiencing either job strain or an effort-reward imbalance had a 49% higher risk of heart disease.
  • Those reporting both stress factors had twice the risk of their counterparts without these stressors.
  • The study couldn’t conclusively link these job stress factors with heart health in women.
  • In men, the combined stressors’ impact was comparable to obesity’s effect on heart disease risk.

The researcher suggests potential workplace interventions might focus on supporting employee well-being, fostering better communication, and offering more work control.

Eduardo J. Sanchez, M.D., from the American Heart Association, emphasized that with the U.S. workforce being one of the most stressed globally, addressing workplace stress is as critical as combating obesity and secondhand smoke exposure. This study further confirms the need for employers to prioritize employee health and implement science-supported changes in workplace culture and policies.

About the study:

This research observed almost 6,500 office professionals, averaging 45 years of age, without any prior heart conditions, from 2000-2018.

The participants, based mainly in Quebec, represented various roles, from senior management to office clerks, and varying education levels.

The research primarily focused on white-collar workers in Quebec, which might not cover the entire diversity of the American workforce.

However, its conclusions might be applicable to similar professional structures in high-income nations, Lavigne-Robichaud noted.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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