WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- It is now scientifically proven that dealing with stress at work can have a long-term effect on your health. A European study published in The Lancet found that those with work-related stress have a 23% greater risk of experiencing a heart attack than those without stress.
The study analyzed the association between coronary heart disease (CHD) and exposure to job strain, which in this study, is defined by a high level of demands and limited freedom in decision-making.
Although previous studies that measured the effect of stress in the workplace have been inconsistent with these findings, University College London's Mika Kivimäki, who led the research, said that this study was investigated "with greater precision than has previously been possible."
Kivimäki and his research team studied nearly 200,000 workers in 13 research groups in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK from 1985 to 2006. The participants did not have CHD but experienced job stress, as detailed in the questionnaires they completed at the onset of the studies. The questionnaires specifically assessed work demands, work overload, time-related pressure demands and how much freedom they had in making decisions.
During the average 7.5 year course of follow-up, the researchers found 2356 cases of incident CHD, an individual's first non-fatal heart attack or coronary-related death, among the research groups.
Even after considering other factors such as age, lifestyle, gender and socioeconomic status, the 23% greater risk with those with job strain stayed the same.
Kivimäki added that "reducing workplace stress might decrease disease incidence. However, this strategy would have a much smaller effect than tackling standard risk factors such a smoking (PAR 36%) and physical activity (PAR 12%)."
However, Bo Netterstrøm, from Bispebjerg Hopsital in Copehagen, Denmark, noted, "Job strain is a measure of only part of a psychosocially damaging work environment, which implies that prevention of workplace stress could reduce incidence of coronary heart disease to a greater extent than stated in the authors' interpretation of the calculated population-attributable risk for job strain."
Netterstrøm also explained that today's economic climate will likely impact future studies, which will include factors like job security, social capital and emotions.