Midlife stress at work = more illness in later life, says study

Researchers have found a link between midlife work stress and illness in older age. (pic: istockphoto.com/DOUGBERRY)

Researchers have found a link between midlife work stress and illness in older age. (pic: istockphoto.com/DOUGBERRY)

If you’re stressing out at work in middle age – subjecting yourself to physical and mental strain – then you could be facing more hospital visits as you get older. That’s according to a long-term study of more than 5,600 public-sector workers aged 44-58 in Finland.

Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland found a direct correlation between the amount of job strain suffered in middle age and the number of days in hospital in people aged 65+. Physical job strain was classed as breathlessness, sweating and heart palpitation. Mental job strain was classed as how much control people they felt they had in their daily worklife compared with the demands put on them in terms of work volume and scheduling.

There was a strong link between physical and mental strain and hospitalisation among men – but only physical strain showed a link for women.

Feelings of stress and strain are subjective, found the study. Much depends on a subjective view of what is stressful and what isn’t. “Occasional feelings of job strain are not necessarily a bad thing, but persistent high job strain has been identified as a health hazard,” said lead researcher Mikaela von Bonsdorff.

One to think about when heading back to work after the Christmas holidays.

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