"Job Strain" Linked To High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease Risk

November 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 over time prove less demanding or provide more decision-making latitude experience decreases in blood pressure.

The findings provide new evidence that job strain is a risk factor in the development of hypertension, report Peter Schnall, M.D., of the Center for Social Epidemiology, Santa Monica, CA, and colleagues Dr. Thomas G. Pickering of Cornell Medical Center in New York City and Dr. Joseph E. Schwartz at State University of New York-Stony Brook in the November-December issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

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 level 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 than those who remained in low-strain jobs.

Interestingly, men who were initially in high-strain jobs but moved to low-strain positions saw their blood pressure readings fall over time, Dr. Schnall and his colleagues say. In fact, their follow-up blood pressure readings were quite similar to those of men who had never been in a high-strain job.

"The present study is, to date, the largest longitudinal study of job strain and ambulatory blood pressure," Dr. Schnall and his colleagues say.

Their research is supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Psychosomatic Medicine is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychosomatic Society, published bimonthly. For information about the journal, contact Joel E. Dimsdale, M.D., editor-in-chief, at 619-543-5468.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health . For information about the Center contact Richard Hebert, rhebert@cfah.org 202-387-2829.

Center for Advancing Health

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