Do You Feel the Squeeze at Your Job? So Might Your Heart!

If you take your job home with you, you could be putting your health at risk. Many people work in places that are stressful or just plain inhospitable. Your boss might be too demanding, your co-workers might be overbearing backstabbers or you might be in the wrong line of work. It’s obvious that workplace stress could dampen your enthusiasm for your job, but it might also lead to unwelcome health problems like high blood pressure, insomnia or even a heart attack. In short, an unhealthy work environment can be the death of you.

To prove this point, a two-part study in Finland focused on some 6,000 men who worked as civil servants in Great Britain and did not have coronary heart disease. The results were somewhat predictable. The study found that people who received unfair treatment were more likely to develop heart-related problems than employees who were treated fairly and were happy with their jobs. In fact, workers who were in a positive work environment were 30 percent less likely to have heart problems than those who toiled for bad bosses or in a toxic workplace.

The effects of feeling trapped, disliking your boss or having personality conflicts with co-workers are real. Harvard Medical School’s Carol Kauffman, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry, says that feeling like your opinion isn’t being considered or is being ignored can be unhealthy at best and potentially lethal. Workers whose bosses were considerate and treated them fairly were less likely to develop problems than those who were demeaned or ignored. Employees who felt like they were contributing to the workplace felt better about themselves and were more likely to remain healthy.

Workplace stress makes you sick because your body reacts by elevating stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine. Some folks react to the pressure with panic attacks or headaches, but some have a much worse reaction says John Garrison, Ph.D., the director of the stress management program at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts. These people may have a higher blood glucose level in response to a fight-or-flight reaction to the stress at work. This can lead to higher cholesterol levels, which everybody knows increase the likelihood of hypertension, anxiety and heart attacks.

The best defense is to stay calm and not let the injustices of the workplace bother you. Work is important, but it’s not worth your health. If your job is giving you nightmares, you should have a talk with your boss to alleviate some of your responsibilities, or you might need to find a new job altogether.