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Job Burnout May Increase Risk of Type of Heart Disease by 79 Percent

Update Date: Mar 13, 2013 12:35 PM EDT
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Is job burnout the reason behind the United States' health woes? A recent study would seem to suggest just that. Americans work longer hours, take fewer vacation days and retire older than their counterparts in many other industrialized nations - so it is not a surprise that feeling burned out, or feeling cognitive, emotional and physical exhaustion, as a result of stress from work is relatively common in this country. Previous studies have also found out that job burnout is linked with anxiety, insomnia and obesity. Now, a recent study from Tel Aviv University has found that job burnout can be an even stronger predictor of coronary artery disease than more traditional predictors, like smoking, blood lipid levels and physical activity.

The factors that contribute to burnout are relatively common in the workplace. Anything from a high amount of stress, a large workload, long work hours, a lack of emotional support and a lack of control over work situations may lead to the physical wear and tear that eventually builds up and weakens the body.

The study was conducted with 8,388 men and women who were apparently healthy at the start of the study. They ranged in age from 19 to 67, and were tracked for an average of 3.4 years. Factors like age, family history of heart disease, gender and smoking were all taken into account. Each of the participants were assessed for their burnout level and signs of coronary heart disease.

Over the course of the study, 93 new cases of coronary heart disease cropped up. Suffering from any type of burnout at all was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of developing coronary artery disease. However, appearing on the top 20 percent of the burnout scale meant that people had a 79 percent increased risk of developing coronary artery disease.

Coronary artery disease is caused by a build-up in plaque in these arteries. If unmanaged, it can lead to angina or heart attacks.

Study authors believe that employers can help fight burnout by promoting healthy and supportive environments and by watching for signs. Workers can also minimize their risk of the disease by exercising and getting regular sleep.

The study was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

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