Unemployment May Increase Risk Of Heart Attack
November 20, 2012

Researchers Say Unemployment Increases Risk Of Heart Attack

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Researchers from Duke University recently revealed results from a study that showed that unemployment may increase the risk of having a heart attack.

In particular, the scientists studied the impact of losing jobs multiple times, suffering short spurts without work, and long-term unemployment in relation to the risk for acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Researchers looked at 13,451 U.S. adults between the ages of 51 and 75 years of age and assessed their risk for having an AMI, commonly known as a heart attack. The participants were part of the long-term Health and Retirement Study and were given biennial follow-up interviews between 1992 and 2010. The findings of the research project were recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a publication affiliated with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

"Results demonstrated that several features of one's past and present employment increased risks for a cardiovascular event. Although the risks for AMI were most significant in the first year after job loss, unemployment status, cumulative number of job losses and cumulative time unemployed were each independently associated with increased risk for AMI," explained the authors in a prepared statement.

At the start of the study, 14 percent of the participants were unemployed, 69.7 percent had lost one job or more, and 35.1 percent had spent some time unemployed. For those who were unemployed, there was an elevated risk of having a heart attack compared to workers who had not lost their job. In addition, the risk of developing a heart attack was incrementally increased from one job (a hazard ratio of 1.22) to a total of four job losses (a hazard ration of 1.63) compared to individual who had no job loss.

"We found that the elevated risks associated with multiple job losses were of the magnitude of other traditional risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes mellitus and hypertension," continued the authors in the statement.

"In the context of the current U.S. economy and projected increases in job instability and unemployment among workers, additional studies should investigate the mechanisms contributing to work-related disparities in AMI to identify viable targets for successful interventions."

Along with the publication of the study´s findings, William T. Gallo, a researcher at City University of New York, wrote a commentary that accompanied the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Gallo argued that the study by the Duke University researchers should be one of the last to look at the effects of unemployment, as there is a lack of research being done on explaining the ℠hows´ and ℠whys´ of the “socioeconomic exposure” of workers.

“Explorations of these questions, however limited, should mark the beginning of the next period of research,” wrote Gallo in the commentary. “Sufficient evidence exists of the negative influence of job loss on health. The next generation of studies should identify reasonable pathways from job separation to illness so that nonoccupational interventions may be developed and targeted to the most vulnerable individuals.”

For those interested in heart attack prevention, the Mayo Clinic provides a set of recommendations to reduce the risk of suffering an AMI. One piece of advice for individuals is the importance of making lifestyle changes. This can include participating in physical activity, consuming healthy foods, lowering and managing stress in a healthy way, as well as avoiding smoking.