Little job control causes stress and risk of stroke

Although stress is often pointed out to strongly affect people of high managerial positions, such as the BMW boss. However, new research is highlighting the dangers of much more common jobs, like waitressing.

Analysis by Chinese researchers took all the available data collected on job strain and stroke risk from six different studies, and looked at the correlation between the strain and stroke risk. The studies covered a total of 138,782 participants over 3 to 17 years.

The participants’ job roles were broken down into four categories, judged by how much control workers had over their own jobs, how hard they worked, and the psychological demands of their jobs (such as deadlines).

The highest stress jobs, according to the analysis, were the ones in the service industry, especially waiting and nursing aides.

Using a waitress as an example, they are constantly demanded to fetch and carry things, take down orders, and if anything is wrong with a meal, they are the ones in the firing line. When the customer is always right, there is little job control, and therefore, high stress.

The more passive jobs, where there is little immediate demand, were found to have much lower stress levels, and included professions such as janitors and miners.

4.4 per cent of stroke risk was calculated by the researchers to be due to the high stress jobs. When men are removed from the equation, the number rose to 6.5 per cent.

However, it is probable that the increased risk comes from an increased likelihood of an unhealthy lifestyle. Those working long, disruptive hours, and who are constantly harangued while on the job, are less likely to look after their health and more likely to turn to unhealthy foods, than those people who are fully in control of their work.

“Based on this study, it is reasonable to consider testing interventions aimed at increasing job control, such as decentralization of decision-making and flexibility in job structure, such as telecommuting,” said Jennifer Majersik, MD, MS from the University of Utah, also a member of the American Academy of Neurology, who wrote a corresponding editorial to the study.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.