Dead-end jobs can kill: Heart disease twice as likely among men doing unrewarding work

DALLAS — Men in stressful work environments who also feel under-appreciated are at a heightened risk for heart disease, a new study warns. The findings indicate that such workplace stress is as harmful to men’s health as obesity or even secondhand smoke.

Researchers followed a group of over 6,000 white-collar workers in Quebec, Canada from 2000 to 2018. These workers were in various roles such as senior management, technical jobs, and office work. Their average age was 45. The study used scientifically approved questionnaires to measure job strain and effort-reward imbalance.

“Job strain refers to work environments where employees face a combination of high job demands and low control over their work,” explains the study’s lead author, Mathilde Lavigne-Robichaud, a doctoral candidate in the Population Health and Optimal Health Practices Research Unit at CHU de Quebec-University Laval Research Center, in a media release.

“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.”

The research found that men who reported feeling stressed at work and also felt they were putting in more effort for less reward had double the risk of heart disease compared to men who didn’t report such stressors. Men who experienced just one of these stress factors had a 49-percent increase in the risk of heart disease.

stressed man at his job in black suit
A man stressed at work (Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels)

“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,” says Lavigne-Robichaud.

The study wasn’t as definitive about how work stress affects women’s heart health. This indicates the need for more research to understand how different kinds of stress might affect women differently. The findings have sparked calls for action to make workplaces less stressful.

“This study adds to the growing body of evidence that the workplace should be prioritized as a vehicle for advancing cardiovascular health for all,” adds Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association.

The researchers suggest interventions such as providing more resources for support, promoting work-life balance, and empowering employees to have more say in their work.

The study is published in the journal Circulation Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

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South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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