People weighed down with heavy workloads, given little room to make their own decisions and worried about job security are more likely to become ill with heart disease, a new study says.
The idea that pushy bosses and over-demanding work increases the risk of heart attacks has been confirmed by new research.
Scientists found people in stressful jobs are 23 per cent more likely to suffer heart disease than those who are more relaxed.
Researchers said a stressful job involves high workloads and little freedom to make decisions.
They also said job security is becoming more important for people’s health as the economic crisis continues to bite.
The researchers gathered results from 13 European studies in the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Sweden between 1985 and 2006.
All the men and women taking part completed questionnaires about their jobs, workload, deadlines and freedom to make decisions.
‘Our findings indicate that job strain is associated with a small but consistent increased risk of experiencing a first coronary heart disease event, such as a heart attack,’ said study leader Professor Mika Kivimaki, from University College London.
People often link work stress to heart problems, but in reality previous research on the subject has been inconclusive.
The latest study looked at responses from almost 200,000 people. None of them had suffered a heart attack before providing the details.
Over an average follow-up period of 7.5 years, researchers recorded a total of 2,356 cases of heart disease events. These included hospital admissions due to heart attacks and deaths from heart disease.
Factors such as lifestyle, age, gender and socio-economic background all contributed.
The findings are published today in the latest online edition of The Lancet medical journal.
Commenting on the results, Dr Bo Netterstrom, from Bispebjerg Hospital in the Netherlands, said: ‘Exposures such as job insecurity and factors related to social capital and emotions are likely to be of major importance in the future.
‘The present economic crisis will almost certainly increase this importance.’
Prof Kivimaki said if the association was causal, job stress probably accounted for a ‘notable proportion’ of heart disease across the workforce.
‘As such, reducing workplace stress might decrease disease incidence,’ he added.
Prof Kivimaki pointed out that stress reduction would have a much smaller impact than tackling smoking and lack of exercise.