Burnout bigger heart attack risk than smoking, says new research
A new study published in the latest Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine finds that people suffering work-related burnout are even more likely to develop heart disease than smokers.
People in the top 20% of the burnout scale are 79% more likely to develop heart disease, whilst all workers suffering from any degree of burnout are 40% more likely, the research found.
The findings were based on a study of 8,838 apparently healthy people, who were tested for signs of burnout and heart disease respectively.
High stress, heavy workloads, long hours, lack of control over job situations and insufficient emotional support lead to physical wear and tear, which when sustained, eventually weakens the heart.
The research, which was conducted by a team led by Dr Sharon Toker at the University of Tel Aviv, who is an expert specialising in the relationship between overwork and the onset of physical diseases. One theme of her earlier work was to explore the link between long hours and developing diabetes.
The link between long hours and a greater risk of heart disease has also been confirmed by the longitudinal Whitehall Cohort Study of civil servants, and a number of smaller pieces of research, some of which are assessed in the Health and Safety Executive’s report “Working Long Hours” (2003).
What is most shocking about Dr Toker’s research is that the risk of burn-out associated heart disease is much higher than previously thought.
Without labouring the point, this kind of risk, which also extends to psychological conditions like stress and depression, is the reason why the TUC is campaigning for a stricter application of the 48 hour limit on average weekly working time set by the Working Time Directive, and for better enforcement. It can’t be right that some people are working themselves to death while others are struggling to find work – the UK must be able to do better than that.