High Stress Jobs May Cause Strokes

Research from several studies point to the possibility that having a high-stress job could lead to a higher incidence of strokes. In that past, studies have shown how having a pressure-packed occupation was related to greater risks for developing heart disease, but similar studies into whether the same held true for strokes have been less conclusive.

One idea scientists have considered is that having a high-stress job simply leads to more unhealthy behaviors, such as developing poor eating habits, smoking, and exercising less.

Job strain and stroke risk was the focus of the new study, which analyzed data from six different studies that added up to 138,782 participants being tracked over the course of three to 17 years. 


To measure and rank the amount of stress associated with different jobs, researchers classified them according to different factors like how much control workers had over their jobs, how hard they worked, and the psychological demands of the job. Time pressure, mental load, and the burdens of coordinating schedules were all factored into job demands. Factors excluded from the research were amount of physical labor and total number of hours worked.

The lowest category of job stress was termed passive jobs which are marked by low psychological demand and low control over the work. Types of workers falling into this category include janitors, miners, and other workers who mostly use their hands.

The next category of stress was called low stress jobs characterized by low psychological demand and high control. Examples of this category include natural scientists and architects.

High stress jobs with high psychological demand and low control over work are service industry type jobs like waitresses and nursing aides. Active jobs with high psychological demand and high control over work include doctors, teachers, and engineers. 


Analysis of the data revealed that for people who worked high stress jobs that the danger of having a stroke was higher by 22 percent in comparison to workers with low stress jobs. In fact, women with high stress jobs were 33 percent more likely to have stroke than women who worked low stress jobs. The most common type of strokes, ischemic stroke, is caused by blocked blood flow to the brain. This type of stroke was most likely to affect people with high stress jobs. For people with passive or active jobs, there was no increased likelihood for stroke. 

Conclusions drawn from the research indicate that stroke risk could be lessened by increasing job control for workers by giving them more decision-making flexibility.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Dennis Skley

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