Stress at work raises your risk of a stroke — and the link is especially strong for women

News & Analysis

15th October 2015

According to an analysis published in the journal Neurology, people with high-stress jobs are significantly increasing their risk of stroke.

Researchers from the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou looked at studies of 140,000 people, and found that those with high-stress jobs were 22 per cent more likely to have a stroke than those with low-stress jobs. For ischemic strokes (the most common type) the risk rises to 58 per cent.

The analysis finds that there is an association between high levels of job stress and an increased stroke risk, rather than a causal relationship. The researchers believe that stress at work can lead to other unhealthy habits, such as a poor diet and smoking, which in turn are likely to increase stroke risk further.

The study’s author, Dr Yuli Huang, said: ‘These results revealed that being exposed to high-stress jobs was associated with an increased risk of stroke, especially for ischemic stroke.

‘We think further studies are needed to evaluate whether job stress directly increases the risk of stroke or whether other concurrent risk factors are responsible for the increased risk observed,’ Huang said.

The researchers identified markers of high-stress work, such as having little control over tasks carried out, having to co-ordinate other people, and excessive time pressure. They gave waitressing as an example of a particularly high-stress job, and cited natural scientists and architects at the other end of the spectrum.

The correlation was particularly strong among women, who are 33 per cent more likely to have a stroke if they have a high- rather than low-stress job.

Other studies have linked high work stress with conditions such as depression, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.