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April 03, 2013
Job burnout can compromise heart health

Dr. Sharon Toker of Tel Aviv University and colleagues say they’ve found a link between job burnout and coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is the buildup of plaque that can lead to chest pain or heart attack.

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The researchers followed nearly 9,000 employed men and women for more than 3 years. They were measured for burnout levels and signs of CHD. Factors that contribute to burnout include 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 can eventually weaken the body.

Burnout was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of developing CHD. But 20 percent of participants—those with the highest burnout scores—had an increased risk of almost 80 percent.

Once burnout begins to develop, it sparks a downward spiral and ultimately becomes a chronic condition. Writing in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, Toker called the results “alarming” and more extreme than researchers had expected. She recommends that employers promote a healthier work environment and become more aware of the signs of burnout.

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