How work stress can harm your heart health

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Achieving a healthy work-life balance is becoming increasingly challenging for many people around the world.

With the demands of long working hours, constant availability, and the fading lines between professional and personal life, stress from work is often carried into personal lives.

This spillover not only affects mental well-being and family relationships but also work productivity and overall job satisfaction.

In Singapore, the situation is particularly concerning, with a higher number of stressed workers compared to the global average.

Many are ending their days feeling both mentally and physically drained. This rising “epidemic” of work-life imbalance is prompting worries about its potential impact on physical health, specifically cardiovascular health.

Assistant Professor Andree Hartanto from Singapore has noted that while most studies on work-life imbalance rely on subjective health reports like headaches or sleep issues, these often miss other critical signs.

“Many symptoms, particularly those affecting the heart, can be silent and go unnoticed,” he explained. This oversight is alarming given that cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, claiming 17.9 million lives each year according to the World Health Organization.

To address this gap, Professor Hartanto led a study that looked at how negative work-to-family spillover affects indicators of cardiovascular risk.

His research, “Negative work-to-family spillover stress and heightened cardiovascular risk biomarkers in midlife and older adults,” was published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

The study was a collaborative effort involving Professor Hartanto’s former undergraduate students from SMU. Notable among them are Sandeeshwara Kasturiratna, now a Ph.D. student at SMU, and Verity Y. Q. Lua, who has begun her Ph.D. in Psychology at Stanford University.

They utilized data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) II Biomarker Project and its subsequent MIDUS Refresher.

These projects, conducted between 2004-2009 and 2012-2016 respectively, provided a comprehensive dataset from 1,179 working adults, predominantly Caucasian, with an average age of 52.64 years, and a balanced gender distribution.

Participants reported their experiences of work-to-family spillover using a specially designed four-item scale and underwent a physical examination.

This included an overnight stay at a clinical research center where fasting blood samples were taken to measure cardiovascular risk biomarkers such as high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides, interleukin-6, and C-reactive protein.

These biomarkers are critical for diagnosing cardiovascular issues, indicating cholesterol levels, artery health, and heart inflammation.

The findings were significant. Higher levels of work-to-family stress were linked to increased triglycerides and lower HDL levels, factors that contribute to artery hardening and elevated cholesterol levels, respectively.

These relationships persisted even after adjusting for demographic factors, health status, and behaviors.

Furthermore, a link was found between work stress and inflammation indicators like interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, suggesting a broader impact of stress on physical health.

Professor Hartanto’s study serves as a crucial alert for both individuals and organizations. It underlines the importance of managing work-related stress not just for mental and relational well-being but also for preventing serious physical health issues like cardiovascular diseases.

As work demands continue to evolve, finding ways to maintain a healthy balance between professional and personal life is more essential than ever.

If you care about heart health, please read studies that apple juice could benefit your heart health, and Yogurt may help lower the death risks in heart disease.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that Vitamin D deficiency can increase heart disease risk, and results showing Zinc and vitamin B6 linked to lower death risk in heart disease.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

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