Work stress linked to heart attack risk in older men

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Older men with stressful jobs and little power to make decisions are more likely to suffer with heart disease than their peers with less job strain, according to a study published in Occupational Medicine, the journal of the Society of Occupational Medicine.

The researchers from University College Cork found that older male workers who had had a heart attack or had unstable angina were four times as likely to have high job strain as those that did not.

Job strain, or the combination of high job demands and low control at work, has long been associated with coronary heart disease, but this latest research looked specifically at its effects in the older workforce.

Intriguingly, it found there was a clear difference between younger and older workers – the association was not found in younger people.

Lead author Vera McCarthy said: “This study is important as it provides information on older workers necessary to inform policy-makers, clinicians, OH physicians and employers.”

The society argued that as the UK’s working population ages, employers will need to make work more attractive and feasible for older workers, implementing changes that enable them to work up to and beyond state pension age.

To this end, investing in OH services will become increasingly important in keeping people economically active and helping to ensure that older workers remain healthy and fit, it added.

“Employers need to ensure that they are looking after the health of their older employees, making the necessary adjustments and being flexible about the jobs they do and their working practices,” said society president Dr Richard Heron.

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