Psychosocial stress — typically resulting from difficulty coping with challenging environments — may work synergistically to put women at higher risk of developing coronary heart disease, a new study suggests.
The findings indicate that the effects of job strain and social strain — the negative aspect of social relationships — on women is a powerful one-two punch. Together they are associated with a 21 per cent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted ongoing stresses for women in balancing paid work and social stressors,” said researchers Yvonne Michael, Associate Professor at Drexel University in the US.
“My hope is that these findings are a call for better methods of monitoring stress in the workplace and remind us of the dual-burden working women face as a result of their unpaid work as caregivers at home,” Michael added.
The study also found that high-stress life events, such as a spouse’s death, divorce/separation or physical or verbal abuse, as well as social strain, were each independently linked with a 12 per cent and 9 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease, respectively.
For the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the team used data from a nationally representative sample of 80,825 postmenopausal women.
In the current follow-up study, the researchers evaluated the effect of psychosocial stress from job strain, stressful life events and social strain (through a survey), and associations among these forms of stress, on coronary heart disease.
Nearly 5 per cent of the women developed coronary heart disease during the 14-year, seven-month study.
Coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the US, occurs with the heart’s arteries become narrow and cannot bring sufficient oxygenated blood to the heart.