Having a stressful job is associated with a high risk of atrial fibrillation, according to new research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) journal.
Stressful jobs, such as bus driving, secretarial work and nursing, are psychologically taxing on the employee, with the study finding that being stressed in the workplace was linked to a 48% higher risk of atrial fibrillation.
Dr Eleonor Fransson, study author and associate professor of epidemiology, School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping University, Sweden, said: “We need people to do these jobs, but employers can help by making sure staff have the resources required to complete the assigned tasks.
“Bosses should schedule breaks and listen to employees’ ideas on how the work itself and the work environment can be improved.”
About atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder, with symptoms including:
- Feeling light headed;
- Dizziness; and
- Shortness of breath.
It causes 20-30% of all strokes and increases the risk of dying prematurely. One in four middle-aged adults in Europe and the US will develop the condition.
It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 14-17 million patients with atrial fibrillation in the European Union, with 120,000-215,000 new diagnoses each year.
Fransson added: “Atrial fibrillation is a common condition with serious consequences, and therefore it is of major public health importance to find ways of preventing it. Little is known about risk factors for the disease and especially the role of the work environment.”
What did the study find?
The study comprised over 13,000 people who were employed and had no history of atrial fibrillation, heart attack or heart failure.
During a median follow-up of 5.7 years, there were 145 cases of the condition identified from national registers.
Fransson added: “In the general working population in Sweden, employees with stressful jobs were almost 50% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. The estimated risk remained even after we took into account other factors such as smoking, leisure time physical activity, body mass index, and hypertension.”
The authors then pooled their results with two other studies on the same topic and found that job strain was associated with a 37% increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
Fransson concluded: “Work stress has previously been linked with coronary heart disease. Work stress should be considered a modifiable risk factor for preventing atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease.
“People who feel stressed at work and have palpitations or other symptoms of atrial fibrillation should see their doctor and speak to their employer about improving the situation at work.”