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Job strain linked to heart attacks in older staff

OLDER workers who have had a "coronary event", including a heart attack, are four times more likely to have high job strain and little control over decision-making.

Researchers found that having job control is a protective factor for heart disease and this is stronger in the older male worker over 50 years of age.

The research, carried out by University College Cork, discovered that older males who had a heart attack or unstable angina were four times as likely to have high job strain.

Job strain – which includes a mix of high-pressure demands and low control – has been associated with coronary heart disease in previous studies.

But the new research has shown a clear difference between younger and older workers – and younger people facing the same stresses are not affected.

The authors, led by Vera McCarthy, adjusted the results to exclude the effects of socioeconomic factors, smoking and being overweight.

She said: "This study is important because of our increasing ageing population, as it provides information on older workers necessary to inform policy makers, clinicians, occupational health physicians and employers."

The research looked at 227 cases and 277 matched controls. It showed that with increasing years of employment, where the worker is experiencing job strain, there is a rise in average blood pressure measured while on the job.


It may be possible that older workers in the sample were unable to migrate to less stressful jobs or even leave the workforce due to financial constraints.

The study said society's view of older workers may impact on their view of themselves. It is important for policymakers and clinicians to be alert to this as the ageing working population increases.

Cardiovascular disease accounts for nearly half of all deaths (48pc) in Europe. Job strain leads to a 50pc excess risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) in those who reported work stress.

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

"Enlightened employers are already making plans to address health and ageing for the benefit of their business."

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