Job Strain Linked to High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease Risk

Nov 23, 1998


Those who complain that "this job is killing me" now have additional scientific evidence to back them up. People with highly demanding jobs that allow them little latitude for making decisions have higher blood pressure and are at greater risk of heart disease than workers who do not experience such "job strain."

The good news is that the damage isn't irreversible: Those whose jobs become less demanding or provide more decision latitude over time experience decreases in blood pressure.

The findings provide new evidence that job strain is a risk factor in the development of hypertension, say Dr. Peter Schnall and his colleagues in the November-December issue of Psychosomatic Medicine. This research is being conducted at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and SUNY-Stony Brook under the leadership of Drs. Thomas Pickering and Joseph Schwartz.

The research team recruited 285 New York City men who worked in a variety of skilled and unskilled jobs. The men completed a questionnaire assessing their freedom to make decisions on the job and the extent of time-pressure demands the job put on them. They also wore a device that recorded their blood pressures at 15-minute intervals over a 24-hour period. The measurements were repeated in 195 of the men three years later.

At the initial evaluation and three years later, men who said they had high-strain jobs had significantly higher blood pressure readings both at work and at home than their low-strain counterparts. Men who remained in high-strain jobs over the three years had much higher blood pressures (10 mm Hg systolic and 6 mm Hg diastolic) than those who remained in low-strain jobs.

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