"While it seems intuitive that psychosocial stress and job strain in particular would have an adverse effect on the heart, previously published studies on this subject have been inconclusive," said Dr. Kenneth Ong, interim chairman of the department of medicine and interim chief of cardiology at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City.
Ong said that although the current data review is extremely rigorous, "many unanswered questions remain, such as whether the duration of exposure to stress, type of occupation or amount of time spent at the workplace becomes a factor."
The impact of job strain on heart disease "appears to be small compared to traditional risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, obesity and physical inactivity," Ong said.
Another expert was equally cautious. "This study shows an association with job strain and subsequent heart disease," said Dr. Stephen Green, associate chairman of the department of cardiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. "It does not mean that job strain causes heart disease, but that it is somehow connected to job strain."
"For instance, with increased job strain, an employee might gain weight or drink more coffee or smoke more cigarettes or do something else that might actually be the cause of the increase in heart risk," Green said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about work-related stress.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
SOURCES: Kenneth Ong, M.D., interim chairman, department of medicine, and interim chief, department of cardiology, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, New York City; Stephen Green, M.D., associate chairman, department of cardiology, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.; The Lancet, news release, Sept. 13, 2012
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