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Working in a highly stressful job may raise the risk for stroke, particularly for women, suggests an analysis of relevant research. Epidemiological studies have shown that high strain jobs are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

Jobs were classified into 1 of 4 categories according to how much control workers had over their jobs and how hard they worked, or the psychological (but not physical) demands of the job, such as time pressure, mental load, and coordination burdens. They are:

  • Passive jobs with low demand and low control, including the jobs performed by janitors, miners, and other manual laborers.
  • Low-strain jobs with low demand and high control, such as those done by natural scientists and architects.
  • High-strain jobs with high demand and low control, as found in service industry workers (waitresses and nursing aides, for example). This category made up 11% to 27% of participants in all six studies.
  • Active jobs with high demand and high control, including those performed by doctors, teachers, and engineers.

The researchers found that people with high-strain jobs had a 22% higher risk for stroke than those with low-strain jobs. The risk with high-strain work was most pronounced for ischemic stroke. No other job strain types were associated with stroke risk.

The most important is that high-stress jobs may lead to more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking, and a lack of exercise. So it is of vital importance for subjects with high-stress occupations to address these lifestyle issues.

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