A recent study published on Wednesday in the journal Neurology has shown that stressful jobs heighten stroke risk, especially among women.
Researchers from South Medical University in Guangzhou, China reviewed 6 long-term studies, surveying a total number of 138,782 participants, aged between 18 and 75.
Jobs were categorized into 4 groups, based on 2 criteria: control (power of the individual to take work-based decisions) and demand (psychological pressures such as tight deadlines, cognitive load and coordination duties).
Low-stress jobs such as those in architecture and science have heightened control and low demand, whereas high-stress jobs like those in the service industry (nurses, waitresses etc.) entail low control coupled with high demand.
It was established that respondents from the high-stress category were approximately 22% more susceptible to suffering a stroke, than their counterparts with passive jobs (manual laborers) and low stress jobs.
Active categories displaying high demand and control, such as doctors, engineers and teachers, didn’t experience an elevated risk, according to study authors.
It appears that women with heightened occupational stress are especially vulnerable to this danger, being 33% more likely to have a cerebrovascular accident, than other female participants with low-stress responsibilities.
According to estimations, in the absence of high-strain jobs, stroke incidence among female workers would be 6.5% lower than it is nowadays.
As researchers explain, major health risks were noteworthy especially when it came to ischemic stroke, which represents 87% of the total stroke cases. This generally occurs due to a condition called atherosclerosis, when arteries supplying blood to the brain are obstructed by fatty deposits.
While no clear explanation has been found for this connection between cerebral infarction and occupational stress, researchers have been speculating regarding a potential factor which disrupts the cortisol hormone.
“It’s possible that high-stress jobs lead to more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking and a lack of exercise, explained senior author Dr. Dingli Xu.
However, this propensity could be combated, by making lifestyle changes, such as quitting cigarettes, following a healthy diet or keeping physically active.
In addition, professionals who are under extreme pressure could turn to meditation, relaxation therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, in order to keep stress at manageable, non-threatening levels.
While strategies to mitigate stress are increasingly popular in the tech industry, little is done to assist service workers, who are the most exposed to these dangers. For instance, nursing aides and waitresses tend to be insufficiently remunerated, and many of them actually live below the poverty line.
Moreover, they are unable to control their work environment, enjoy few work benefits and have little possibility of professional advancement. Therefore, it is imperative to address these issues immediately, in order to diminish occupational stress and curb its devastating impact on such employees.
The study findings are deeply relevant nowadays, given the fact that stroke is the 4th leading mortality cause in the U.S., with one person dying every 4 minutes due to this condition. Cerebrovascular accidents actually occur once every 4 seconds, and represent the leading cause of severe, long-term or permanent disabilities in America.
Moreover, stroke costs the U.S. around $34 billion every year, which corresponds to medical assistance, drug treatment and lost productivity.
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