14 September 2018

A study carried out in Finland, France, Sweden, and Britain followed over 100 000 participants from 1985–2002.

Of these, those who experienced work-related stress were at almost a two-fold risk of premature death compared to men with the same medical conditions who did not report experiencing work-related stress.

The study examined the association between work-related stress and mortality in Finland, France, Sweden, and Britain. A total of 100 000 people participated, and were followed from 1985–2002 onwards.

At the start of the study, the participants answered questions about their lifestyle, work and health. At the end of the 14-year follow-up, about 3800 people had died. According to the results, men who experienced work-related stress stress and were chronically ill were at a 1.7-fold risk of dying compared to those with the same illnesses, but no work-related stress.

‘We did not gather detailed information on the cause of death. Cardiovascular mortality was, however, clearly elevated’, says Mika Kivimäki, Professor of Epidemiology, who works at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

One characteristic of work-related stress was when an employee had strenuous work and little control over it.

Also the employer’s responsibility

According to the study, exercise, not smoking and a good blood count do not erase the mortality related to stress among the risk group.

According to Kivimäki, everyone should still take care of their health. For example, smoking, overweight, and high cholesterol increase the likelihood of plaque starting to gather in the blood vessels.

‘Stress in turn is believed to increase the risk of this atherosclerotic plaque detaching so that it forms a blockage in the coronary artery, that is, a heart attack; or a blockage in the cerebral artery, that is, a stroke. If we minimize the conventional risks, we reduce the likelihood of stress causing damage. But if the atherosclerosis progresses too far, the likelihood of stress triggering a heart attack grows’.

According to researchers, it is not enough to encourage men who belong to the risk group to pay more attention to their lifestyles. Employers must also provide support to protect their employees from too much stress.

The study was published in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology in June. The Finnish side of the research was conducted at the Universities of Helsinki, Turk and Oulu, the Folkhälsan Research Center and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Link to the article:

Work stress and risk of death in men and women with and without cardiometabolic disease: a multicohort study The Lancet Volume 6, Issue 9, September 2018, Pages 705-713