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Stress at work promotes premature death in men


How does stress at work affect men?

A recent large study of the impact of workload on health has found dramatic effects on premature death rates among men when they have demanding jobs with little control over their workload.

In their current research, scientists from the University of Helsinki and University College London found that it can have a massive negative impact on men's health and longevity if they do a demanding job and are exposed to heavy workloads. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology".

Men with pre-existing conditions were particularly at risk

The study found that men with diabetes, heart disease, or a stroke were 68 percent more likely to die over the course of the study if they had demanding jobs with little control over their workload.

How can you deal with stress at work?

The results of the 14-year study underline the high levels of stress at work and make it clear that companies have to help the most vulnerable men by redesigning their jobs, reducing their workload or even retiring early for health reasons the doctors.

Companies should consider cardiometabolic diseases

While many previous studies only looked at how stress can increase the risk of physical and mental health problems, it has now been analyzed for the first time how stress at work affects people with cardiometabolic disease. There are people who are particularly at risk, says study author Professor Andrew Steptoe from University College London. In the future, companies should think about who is particularly at risk due to existing diseases and how they can be helped, the expert adds.

More than 100,000 subjects took part in the study

The study included more than 100,000 people from Finland, France, Sweden and the UK. These participants were with and without cardiometabolic disease. At the beginning of the study, each person answered a questionnaire on lifestyle, work and health. At the end of the study, a total of 3,841 participants had died, the scientists say.

How was the workload assessed?

The researchers assessed people's workload in two different ways. The so-called job load was defined as a demanding task, where people have little control over their requirements. The second assessment looked at the imbalance between effort and reward, for example when people put a lot of effort into their work but are not adequately rewarded.

Stress can be almost as harmful to some men as smoking

Men with cardiometabolic diseases with a demanding job were 68 percent more likely to die prematurely than men with a quieter, less stressful job. This risk also persisted if various factors such as lifestyle or health were included. The results suggest that for men with pre-existing cardiometabolic disorders, work stress is almost as harmful as smoking and more dangerous than obesity, high cholesterol, and sedentary lifestyle.

Results only affected men

The most striking result of the study is the disproportionate impact on men's health. Doctors found that neither workload nor the imbalance between work and reward affected the mortality rate of women in the study. The difference is probably due to direct biological stress effects, the experts explain. For example, the amount of production of the stress hormone cortisol differs between men and women. Stress also increases blood pressure and may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke in people who already have hardened arteries (hardening of the arteries or also known as arteriosclerosis), the researchers say.

Men are more likely to suffer from atherosclerosis

The stress-mortality relationship was found in men but not in women. This is in line with the fact that atherosclerosis is more common in men of working age than in women, the scientists explain. A healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of premature death, but other interventions, such as stress management courses, job redesign or reduced working hours, can help people at risk, doctors add. (as)

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