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Research about Work, Stress, and Health  

A vast body of international scientific literature shows a strong correlation between workplace stress and the development of cardiovascular problems such as hypertension and myocardial infarction.  It is estimated that up to 23 percent of heart disease related deaths per year could be prevented if the levels of job strain in the most stressful occupations were reduced to average levels seen in other occupations.

Evidence for the mechanisms by which work stressors can trigger cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and other chronic health problems points to three main pathways:

  1. Changes in physiological processes that increase the risk for CVD—high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weakened immune response, high cortisol, and changes in appetite and digestive patterns.
  2. Changes in behavior in that increase the risk for CVD—low physical activity levels, excessive coffee consumption, smoking, poor dietary habits.
  3. Development of mental health conditions (anxiety and depression) that independently increase the risk for a range of chronic health conditions, including CVD (obesity, stroke, atherosclerosis, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, etc).

Each of these mechanisms has been documented repeatedly in epidemiologic studies, patho-physiological studies of animals and humans, and behavioral studies.

An illustration of the scientific evidence (pdf) linking workplace stressors and the development of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases is also available.

Research articles about job stress including these topics:    

  • The association between workplace stressors and the development of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.
  • The association between workplace stressors and health behaviors.
  • Evidence-based strategies for reducing stressors in the workplace.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is conducting a national research program on work organization and stress related disorders.

Learn about past and future scientific meetings on job stress by visiting the Job Stress Network website.

You can also research instruments for measuring exposures to workplace stressors.