June 29, 2006

Chronic job strain may raise blood pressure

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Workers who are under constant
stress may start to show it in their blood pressure readings,
researchers reported Thursday.

In a study that followed more than 6,719 white-collar
workers for 7.5 years, Canadian researchers found that those
with high job demands, and reported low levels of social
support in the office, tended to have higher blood pressure
than other workers.

The relationship was stronger among men than among women.
As a group, men with high job strain had higher blood pressure
and were at greater risk of blood pressure increases over time
than those with less stressful work.

In addition, the study found that men and women who said
they got little support from their bosses and co-workers seemed
particularly vulnerable to the blood pressure effects of job

"Our study supports the hypothesis that job strain,
particularly in workers with low social support at work, may
contribute to increased blood pressure," lead author Dr.
Chantal Guimont of Laval University in Quebec told Reuters

She and her colleagues report the findings in the American
Journal of Public Health.

Many studies have examined the link between cardiovascular
disease and job strain -- typically defined as work with high
psychological demands, but with little independence or
decision-making authority. Evidence suggests that chronically
stressed workers are more likely to develop heart disease, but
studies looking specifically at blood pressure effects have
yielded mixed results.

Theoretically, job stress might raise blood pressure by
chronically activating the nervous and cardiovascular systems.
On the other hand, stressed workers may have little time or
energy for exercise, may eat poorly or have higher smoking
rates -- though, in this study, the researchers accounted for
factors like smoking, exercise habits and weight.

According to Guimont, the current findings support the
notion that curbing job strain could make a difference in some
workers' blood pressure. For example, she said, employers might
give workers more support or more say in how they accomplish
their tasks, loosen up deadline pressure, or offer more chances
for learning and growth.

Studies are underway, Guimont noted, to see whether such
measures work.

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, August 2006.