Stress can break your heart

Aug 06 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Employees who deal with long-term workplace stress by smoking, drinking and 'slobbing out' could be doing more damage to their health than gaining 40 lbs. or ageing 30 years, according to a study published by TUC-backed ‘Hazards’ magazine.

Workers exposed to stress for at least half their working lives are 25 per cent more likely to die from a heart attack, and have 50 per cent higher odds of suffering a fatal stroke.

Writing in ‘Hazards’, US stress researcher Paul Landsbergis says that long-term stress at work is far more likely on the shopfloor than in the boardroom. Research he has worked on shows that it is manual workers, not executives, that are at greatest risk from stress related illness.

Blue-collar workers are particularly at risk to heart disease due to high blood pressure, which is linked with excessive overtime, night shifts, and work with high psychological pressures and low rewards.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said a long hours culture also contributed to the deadly results of stress.

"Stress at work is cutting workers’ lives short," he said. "This enormous strain on individuals and society will only end when we tackle the causes of stress such as overwork and the long-hours culture The UK needs a workforce that works well and stays well."

Research has shown that stress is now Britain’s number one workplace health hazard. An individual’s mental health deteriorates when a change in workload results in higher demands, less control and reduced support. Poor management planning and organisation can lead to heart disease.

Working for unreasonable and unfair bosses also leads to dangerously high blood pressure.

According to Paul Landsbergis: "If you are experiencing the effects of job stress the symptoms are not ‘all in your head’, but are your body’s way of telling you’re your job is out of kilter. And this stress can, literally, break your heart."