Job burnout can take a toll on your heart

Work stress

Burnt-out employees have a dramatically increased risk of heart disease, Tel Aviv University researchers have found.

As they try to meet their demanding careers, many workers experience job burnout -- physical, cognitive, and emotional exhaustion that results from stress at work.

Researchers have found that burnout is also associated with obesity, insomnia, and anxiety.

Now, Dr. Sharon Toker of TAU's Faculty of Management and her fellow researchers -- Profs. Samuel Melamed, Shlomo Berliner, David Zeltser and Itzhak Shpira of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine -- have found a link between job burnout and coronary heart disease (CHD), the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries that leads to angina or heart attacks.

Those who were identified as being in the top 20 percent of the burnout scale were found to have a 79 percent increased risk of coronary disease, the researchers said.

Calling the results "alarming," Dr. Toker said that these findings were more extreme than the researchers had expected -- and make burnout a stronger predictor of CHD than many other classical risk factors, including smoking, blood lipid levels, and physical activity.

Some of the factors that contribute to burnout are common experiences in the workplace, including high stress, heavy workload, a lack of control over job situations, a lack of emotional support, and long work hours. This leads to physical wear and tear, which will eventually weaken the body.

Knowing that burnout has been associated with other cardiovascular risk factors, such as heightened amounts of cholesterol or fat in the bloodstream, the researchers hypothesized that it could also be a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Over the course of the study, a total of 8,838 apparently healthy employed men and women between the ages of 19 and 67 who presented for routine health examinations were followed for an average of 3.4 years. Each participant was measured for burnout levels and examined for signs of CHD. The researchers controlled for typical risk factors for the disease, such as sex, age, family history of heart disease, and smoking.

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