U.S. work conditions increase heart risk

March 17, 2013 at 10:45 PM
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TEL AVIV, Israel, March 17 (UPI) -- Americans work longer days, take less vacation and retire later than people in other developed nations and Israeli scientists see a link to more heart illness.

Dr. Sharon Toker of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management and colleagues Samuel Melamed, Shlomo Berliner, David Zeltser and Itzhak Shpira of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine found a link between job burnout and coronary heart disease, the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries that leads to angina or heart attacks.

During the course of their study, a total of 8,838 apparently healthy employed men and women between the ages of 19 and 67 who presented for routine health examinations were followed for an average of 3.4 years. Each participant was measured for burnout levels and examined for signs of cardiovascular disease.

The study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, found during the follow-up period, 93 new cases of cardiovascular disease were identified and burnout was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

In addition, those identified as being in the top 20 percent of the burnout scale were found to have a 79 percent increased risk of coronary disease.

Toker described the results "alarming," and that the findings were more extreme than the researchers had expected -- burnout was a stronger predictor of coronary heart disease than many other classical risk factors, such as smoking, blood lipid levels and physical activity.

Some of the factors that contribute to burnout are common experiences in the workplace, including high stress, heavy workload, a lack of control over job situations, a lack of emotional support and long work hours. This leads to physical wear and tear, which will eventually weaken the body, Toker said.

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