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Job Stress Means Higher Risk Of Stroke: Study

10/19/2015 09:12 EDT | Updated 10/19/2015 09:12 EDT

Workers under pressure have a 22 per cent greater risk of having a stroke than others, according to a study published on October 14 in the journal Neurology. The risk is greater for women.

A stressful job has an impact on health. That is the conclusion of a study led by Chinese researchers. Dr Dingli Xu and a team at the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou examined the data from six studies involving 138,782 patients, who were followed for between three and 17 years.\

To work out the degree of stress from jobs, the researchers classified jobs into four categories according to the mental load, pressure and control workers had. This resulted in various categories: passive jobs (such as janitors and manual workers, according to the study), those with few restrictions (architects), and active jobs (doctors, teachers and researchers). For these workers, no increased risk of a stroke was observed.

But those with a high-stress job (such as waiters and nurses), they were 22 per cent more likely to have a stroke. One additional explanation suggested is these workers' poor lifestyle. "It's possible that high stress jobs lead to more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking and a lack of exercise," said Dr Dingli Xu.

Women at greater risk

The researchers also noted that gender made a difference to the figure. For women, the risk was 33 per cent higher. For both sexes, the risk of ischemic stroke -- caused by blockage of blood flow -- was 58 per cent higher for those with a stressful job than for other workers. For hemorrhagic strokes -- which are the result of a burst blood vessel -- there was less of a link to work pressure.

Whatever the biological explanation, these results highlight the urgent need to find the resources to transform stressful jobs.

Flexible hours, working from home, redefining each worker's tasks are some of the suggestions made by the authors of the study.

In terms of the employees' well-being, they also mentioned the advantage of cognitive behavioral therapy as well as relaxation.

The authors underlined that it is vitally important for people with very stressful jobs to tackle lifestyle issues and that successful action could have a major impact on public health.

In August, a study published in The Lancet highlighted a link between extended working hours and increased risk of a stroke. Working more than 55 hours a week increased the risk by 33 per cent compared to a 35 to

40 hour working week.

The findings of the new study out of Guangzhou were published on Wednesday 14 October in the journal Neurology.

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