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05-05-2010 | Cardiology | Article

High job pressure boosts women’s heart disease risk


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MedWire News: Women who feel under too much pressure in their jobs are at increased risk for ischemic heart disease (IHD), show results from the Danish Nurse Cohort Study.

The study of over 12,000 female nurses found younger women (under 51 years of age) specifically were at increased risk. In this age group, women who reported that work pressure was much too high had a roughly 1.6-fold higher risk for developing IHD long-term than those who reported suitable work pressure.

“This study adds to the previous body of evidence suggesting harmful effects of excessive psychological demands at work on cardiac health, but is one among very few that demonstrated the effect among women,” note study authors Yrsa Andersen Hundrup (Glostrup University Hospital, Denmark) and team.

They add that their results should be taken into account in primary prevention measures.

At the beginning of the study in 1993, the 12,116 female participants, aged 45–64 years, completed a questionnaire including items on levels of work pressure and job control.

The women were then followed-up for 15 years, until 2008. During this time, 580 were hospitalized with IHD.

Around 60% of women found work pressure at least a little too high, and the age-adjusted incidence of IHD was nearly 50% higher among those reporting that work pressure was much too high compared with those reporting suitable levels of work pressure.

The association remained significant after adjusting for IHD risk factors, with a hazard ratio of 1.35 for much-too-high versus suitable work pressure. Further adjustment for shift work and physical activity at work had little effect, giving a corresponding hazard ratio of 1.38.

Stratifying participants by the median baseline age of 51 years showed that the association between work pressure and IHD was strongest and indeed only significant in the younger group. The hazard ratio associated with work pressure being much too high was 1.57 in those under 51 years of age and 0.97 in those 51 years or older.

Further analysis showed that having work pressure that was much too high was associated with increased risk for IHD even when angina was excluded as an event.

No evidence for a relationship between job control and risk for IHD was found, however.

The authors comment that this could be due to the question on control having a narrower range of answers than that for work pressure, and that it only concerned authority over daily work decisions and not skill discretion.

The research is published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Caroline Price

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