Researchers say working long hours in a stressful environment may be a better predictor of heart health than smoking, blood lipid levels, and exercise.
We spend almost a third of our adult lives at work. Even if we refuse to admit that what we do is a large part of who we are, it represents a huge part of our daily life, and consequently, can have a huge impact on our long-term health. Long hours, few vacations, and late retirement—these are the sorts of things that can lead to the physical, cognitive, and emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout.
It can stem from stress, heavy workloads, lack of control over job situations, lack of emotional support, and/or long work hours. Without proper attention, burnout can become a chronic condition that may lead to long-term health issues such as obesity, insomnia, and anxiety. Now, researchers suggest that it may also be a significant determinant for coronary heart disease (CHD), which can lead to angina and heart attack.
8,838 employed men and women
Researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Management conducted a study that involved 8,838 healthy employed men and women, ages 19 to 67. They followed the subjects’ routine health examinations for 3.4 years, while also measuring for burnout and signs of CHD.
In the follow-up portion of the study, researchers found that burnout was associated with a 40 percent increase in risk for CHD. The 20 percent of participants who were at the top of the burnout scale had an increased risk of 79 percent. Researchers suggest that burnout could be a stronger predictor of CHD than more established risk factors such as smoking, blood lipid levels, and physical activity. They also predicted that with a longer follow-up period, there would have been even more dramatic results.
Living the healthy life
Researchers stressed that employers should take initiative in promoting healthy and supportive work environments to prevent burnout in the workplace. They also recommend that individual employees take control and practise healthy lifestyle choices that include exercise, proper sleep, and if required, psychological therapy.
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