Healthy employees exposed to stress at work are at twice the risk of cardiovascular disease, a new German study has warned.
Scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen in Germany evaluated data from a population-based cohort study and found that healthy workers exposed to stress at work displayed significantly elevated inflammatory parameters and faced twice the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The study was based on a long-term observation of more than 950 people as part of the population-based cohort study MONICA/KORA.
The work was conducted by Dr Rebecca Emeny as part of the Mental Health working group headed by Professor Karl-Heinz Ladwig, Institute of Epidemiology II at the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen (HMGU).
Data was analysed from questionnaires on psychological stress at work and concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers in the blood.
More than half of the participants in the study stated that they experienced psychological strain and stress at work.
Scientists found a clear association between stress and elevated concentrations of CRP (C-reactive protein), which is an inflammatory marker, and were thus able to demonstrate a stress-related inflammatory reaction in the body.
Moreover, job stress led to harmful psychological effects such as depression and sleep disturbances as well as to unhealthy behaviour, for example, physical inactivity.
Doing sports regularly, for at least one hour per week, significantly reduced inflammatory activity. However, the differences in terms of health risks between people who suffered from work stress and those who did not still remained.
"The insights gained from this study form important starting points for finding preventive measures that will protect against stress-related diseases such as coronary heart disease," said Emeny, first author of the study.
The study was published in the journals Brain, Behaviour, Immunity and Psychosomatic Medicine.