Skip to main content

05-10-2010 | Respiratory | Article

Work stress linked to asthma


Free abstract

MedWire News: Study results suggest that work stress and an inability to relax after work are associated with increased asthma prevalence and incidence.

"Stressful work conditions have been linked to a range of adverse health outcomes including the metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and anxiety disorders," explain Adrian Loerbroks (Heidelberg University, Germany) and team.

Although the link between certain types of occupations (eg, nursing) or occupational exposures (eg, to various chemicals) and asthma is well established, the researchers believe theirs is the first study to investigate whether there is any association between psychological work conditions and asthma.

The researchers studied 3341 men and women who were in full-time employment at baseline in 1992-1995, of whom 2463 were followed-up in 2002-2003.

All of the participants completed questionnaires on asthma and working conditions at baseline and at the end of the study period.

Work stress and inability to relax after work were assessed on a scale of 0.00 to 3.00, with with higher scores indicating higher work stress or greater inability to relax.

The researchers found that 5.6% of participants reported a diagnosis of asthma at baseline, and a further 1.9% developed the condition by the end of the follow-up period.

At baseline, the mean work stress score was 1.17 and the mean inability to relax after work score was 1.69.

After adjustment for age, gender, smoking, family history of asthma, body mass index and other variables, the researchers found that mean baseline work stress and inability to relax scores were significantly and positively associated with asthma prevalence.

Further analysis showed that work stress and inability to relax were also associated with asthma incidence. Indeed, each one standard deviation increase in work stress and inability to relax over the study period was associated with a respective 46% and 39% increased risk for incident asthma, after adjustment.

Loerbroks and team conclude: "Presenting the first epidemiological study to date on the relation between psychologically adverse working conditions and the development of asthma, our investigation suggests that work stress and the inability to relax after work are associated with an increased risk of asthma."

They add that "large prospective studies on psychosocial work conditions in relation to risk of asthma are needed to replicate our findings and to explore the potential role of inflammation."

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

By Mark Cowen

Related topics