Expert Commentary

The effects of job strain and insecurity on women’s cardiovascular health

2012 study from Harvard and Yale in PLoS One on the increase in stress-related cardiovascular problems related to women's workplace environment.

Stressed woman (iStock)

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) has long been connected with high-stress jobs or situations. However, such problems have been largely associated with men. The increasing number of women working in high-level positions has not only changed the demographics of the U.S. workforce but also appears to be changing the health of segments of the female population.

A 2012 study from Harvard and Yale published in PLoS One, “Job Strain, Job Insecurity, and Incident Cardiovascular Disease in the Women’s Health Study: Results from a 10-Year Prospective Study,” analyzed data from a 10-year survey of more than 22,000 female health professionals.

The study’s findings include:

  • Controlling for other contributing factors such as income, “women with high job strain were 38% more likely to experience a CVD event than their counterparts who reported low job strain.”
  • Of the survey participants, “23.8% of women had low job strain, while 34.4% had passive jobs, 21.4% had active jobs, and 20.4% had high job strain.”
  • Out of those surveyed, only “one-fifth of the sample (19.4%) reported job insecurity, and it was most common among women in high strain jobs (32.2%).”
  • While “job insecurity did not predict incident CVD, it was cross-sectionally associated with risk factors for CVD including smoking, physical inactivity, hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and BMI in bivariate analyses.”

In conclusion, the authors remarked that “these results suggest that women with high strain and active jobs potentially experience long-term vascular effects where high demand appears to be the critical factor.” In addition, they note, the “findings suggest the need to develop interventions to improve psychosocial characteristics of the work environment since this may have long-term benefits for cardiovascular health in women. Similarly, research is needed to develop and validate employee work models that minimize work stress.”

Tags: women and work

About The Author