Workers who suffer job strain are 23 percent more likely to have a heart attack than stress-free counterparts, but the risk is far smaller than smoking or a sedentary lifestyle, says a large study published in The Lancet on Sept. 14.
The new paper is a meta-analysis — an overview of 13 studies conducted between 1985 and 2006 in seven European countries that adopted the same approach: participants without coronary heart disease were first interviewed and their health was then monitored, for 7.5 years on average.
In all, 197,473 took part in these studies, of whom 30,214 reported job strain, defined as having excessive workloads, time pressures and little freedom to make decisions at work.
During the monitoring period that followed, doctors recorded 2,356 heart attacks. The risk was 23 percent higher among the “job strain” group, even when age, gender and socioeconomic factors, which all influence risk, were taken into account.