New study findings confirm what some office managers, senior management officials and other white-collar workers have suspected for years: working in highly stressful jobs can increase your blood pressure.
"We found that cumulative exposure to job strain resulted in significant increases in systolic blood pressure among male white-collar workers, especially those with low levels of social support at work," Dr. Chantal Guimont, of Laval University, in Quebec City, Quebec, and her colleagues write in this month's American Journal of Public Health.
Some of the studies assessing the impact of job strain on blood pressure have yielded conflicting results, so Guimont and her colleagues looked at the issue again in a study of 6,719 men and women white-collar workers, aged 18 to 65 years, in Quebec City.
These participants completed a questionnaire about their physical activity level, smoking history and other potential items that might increase their risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, as well as about their family history of the two conditions, and characteristics of their work and social life. They also had several measurements of their blood pressure.
At follow-up, 7.5 years later, men who were exposed to high levels of job strain throughout the course of the study had blood pressures that were nearly two points above that of men with no exposure to job strain -- an increase comparable to that observed among men with sedentary behavior.
In particular, men with the most job strain were 33 percent more likely to experience an increase in blood pressure.
What's more, men with a high level of job stress at follow-up, who initially reported no such stress, had similarly increased blood pressures, the researchers report; those with high levels of job strain at follow-up only were 40 percent more likely to have increased blood pressures.
The association was similar for women, but the effects were more pronounced among men, the researchers note.
In other findings, men and women with low levels of support from their supervisors and/or co-workers were at an even higher risk of increased blood pressure. In fact, among those with high social support, high levels of job stress did not appear to be associated with increased blood pressures.
"These results suggest that primary interventions aimed at reducing job strain may have significant effects on blood pressure," Guimont and her colleagues conclude.
SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, August 2006.