As per a recent study, toiling away in a high-stress job without adequate rewards can have detrimental effects on heart health, akin to the impact of obesity.
If you find yourself working diligently but receiving little in return, it’s not merely job satisfaction that should concern you.
Fresh research indicates that men engaged in demanding, stressful occupations with insufficient rewards may face double the risk of heart disease compared to their counterparts experiencing less work-related stressors.
These findings, published in the American Heart Association journal “Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes,” highlight the cumulative consequences of job stress and an imbalance between effort and reward on heart health. While previous studies have separately linked job stress and effort-reward imbalance to an increased risk of heart disease, this study delves into their combined effects.
Lead author Mathilde Lavigne-Robichaud, currently pursuing a doctorate at the CHU Quebec Research Center-Laval University of Quebec (Canada), underscores the importance of understanding the interplay between workplace stressors and cardiovascular health. Given the substantial time people spend at work, addressing stressful work conditions is imperative for both public health and employee well-being.
The most recent data from the European Heart Network reveals that cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death among men in all but 12 European countries, responsible for approximately 3.9 million fatalities across the continent. In the United States, it is also the leading cause of death, according to the American Heart Association.
The study involved an analysis of nearly 6,500 workers, with an average age of 45, who did not have pre-existing heart disease. Tracking these individuals from 2000 to 2018, the researchers assessed job stress and effort-reward imbalance using data from health and workplace surveys.
Men who reported experiencing either job stress or effort-reward imbalance exhibited a 49% higher risk of heart disease compared to those without such work-related challenges. However, men who reported experiencing both high job stress and a lack of rewards faced double the risk of heart disease compared to their peers without these combined stressors.
Remarkably, this effect on heart health was found to be on par with the impact of obesity. However, it remains unclear whether these work-related stressors have a similar effect on women’s heart health.
Stress factors correlated with additional health issues.
“Job stress, as defined, encompasses work settings where employees confront a combination of demanding job requirements and limited control over their work. These high demands may manifest as hefty workloads, tight deadlines, and a multitude of responsibilities. In contrast, ‘limited control’ implies that employees have minimal influence over decision-making and the manner in which they carry out their tasks,” Lavigne-Robichaud clarifies.
Effort-reward imbalance transpires when employees invest significant effort in their work but perceive the rewards they receive, such as compensation, recognition, or job security, as inadequate or disproportionate to their efforts.
“To illustrate, if you consistently go above and beyond but feel that you are not duly recognized or rewarded for your contributions, this situation is termed ‘effort-reward imbalance,'” the expert elaborates.
One of the study’s limitations is its predominantly Quebec-based participant pool, potentially lacking representation of the diverse experiences of the broader North American workforce.
“Our findings suggest that interventions targeting the reduction of stressors within the work environment could prove particularly beneficial for men, with potential positive effects for women as well, given that these stressors are linked to other prevalent health issues, such as depression,” Lavigne-Robichaud asserts.
The inconclusive nature of the results concerning women underscores the necessity for further research, she adds.
Lavigne-Robichaud recommends implementing interventions such as providing support resources, promoting work-life balance, enhancing communication, and empowering employees with greater control over their work as potential strategies for mitigating these workplace stressors.