Job burnout worse for your heart than smoking

A new study finds an alarming connection between coronary disease and work that's overly stressful.

By Bruce Kennedy Mar 14, 2013 7:23AM

Image: Businesswoman and businessman (Eric Audras/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images)Are you exhausted by your work, physically and emotionally? Are you dealing daily with a diabolical boss? If so, you may be a prime candidate for heart problems.

A new Israeli study suggests that a strong link connects job burnout and coronary heart disease, an accumulation of plaque in arteries that can lead to angina or heart attacks.

Researchers looked at nearly 9,000 healthy and employed men and women ages 19 to 67 who went in for routine medical exams and followed up on their health data for several years. The results, recently published in Psychosomatic Medicine, were startling, even to the researchers.

Participants were asked a series of questions about their physical and mental states. They covered topics such as their ability to focus, think clearly and be sensitive to their co-workers' and customers' needs, as well as their emotional investment in their work.

"Those who were identified as being in the top 20% of the burnout scale were found to have a 79% increased risk of coronary disease," a press release by Tel Aviv University said.

One of the study's lead researchers, Dr. Sharon Toker, called the findings alarming, adding they were "more extreme than the researchers had expected -- and make burnout a stronger predictor of CHD than many other classical risk factors, including smoking, blood lipid levels and physical activity."

Toker also warned that job burnout can create a downward health spiral and develop into a chronic condition. She suggested employers make prevention a priority "by promoting healthy and supportive work environments and keeping watch for early warning signs of the condition."

Workers can combat the ill effects of job burnout by getting proper sleep, staying physically active and seeking psychological counseling if needed.

And if your current job is making you sick, you might be better off working elsewhere.

More on moneyNOW

Mar 14, 2013 8:48AM
A strong connection between job burnout, heart disease, and slave labor wages with little or no benefits. Yet these folks are shocked? Amazing.
Mar 14, 2013 12:56PM
I'm in sales, a job with built-in stress.  They call it quotas.  The company I work for can care less about the economy and it's effects on our business.  In their mind it's all our fault.  I've seen sales people carted away in ambulances.  And I've seen people fired because they couldn't meet the quotas due to their hospitalization.  It's a cut-throat, we don't give a damn about our employees environment.    Most of the sales people have some sort of illness with heart disease as number one.
Mar 14, 2013 9:30AM
That's why I am retiring in less than one month from now at age 60. They say for every year you work past 60, it takes 2 years off your life or so I've heard...not worth it!
Mar 14, 2013 1:56PM
HA...what about bullying bosses and co-workers? Even if you just sit in your cube and mind your own business, you seem to get pulled into the drama. People are so scared of losing their jobs and these companies know this and use it to their advantage. The senior management likes when co-workers do not get along and spy on eachother and then report to management. Everyday is stressful and I am just in an office, not brain surgery or anything remotely like it! In this age of technology, we still have to have the face time to prove that we are working, hours per week have increased, weekends are interrupted by work. I thought things were supposed to get better but they are worse. I sometimes feel that there are "too many of us" competing for the same position and this is why the employers can treat us like garbage. Oh, I wish to retire one day! 
Mar 14, 2013 10:30AM

"Stress" is a major cause of heart attacks....You can paint it anyway you want, but most stress is job related....Even if it's a house wife/husband at home taking care of kids and the home.


That one of the "main reasons" for not bringing "the job" home to your family; At that point you have invaded your personal refuge and then the family's life with stress from work..


I've had the Cardio conditions and mild heart attacks (no such thing) until I underwent a quad by-pass several years ago....I retired about 9 months after that, but had enough time,just over 30 years to take advantage of what was offered by our Company....Best thing I ever did in my life; And I have never looked back...It was about 15 years ago.

Mar 14, 2013 1:32PM
I was recently laid off and now consider myself retired.  When I think of all the years of child care, babysitters, rush jobs, nasty bosses, long commutes and years of night school, I don't know how I did it all.  I've always worked for lawyers.  I am now stress free.  If I hadn't been laid off, I probably would have just kept working but I'll be 64 soon, so it's time.  I believe stress triggers a lot of illnesses in people, but it's hard to get away from it.  I'll enjoy my time to myself now, believe me.  Thank God I lived long enough to retire.
Mar 14, 2013 1:06PM
Hahaha So basically they are saying continuous improvement programs kill people. I want to be the first to say I'm shocked that continual harassment causes health problems. Hey Corporate America is making a lot more money using these programs do you think they will stop becasue people are dying? I don't think so.
Mar 14, 2013 11:04AM

Being a Cardio/Heart patient for several years; I did a lot of research over years myself....And have asked friends or observed their behavior also over a period of time..Many have since died.

Not all was from heart attack events, but probably close to 40% were.?


I had time when I was recuping from surgery...And then shortly after retiring, because of being alone in the home...Wife still worked for a couple years...I learned a lot, it was interesting.

I came up with a list about "Living Longer, Better." The percentages don't always add up to 100%, because everyone is different....I'll share this with all of you..

40-50% Genetics...You can't change.

10-15%  Stress...Eliminate it.

10-15% Overweight...Lose it.

10-15% Lack of excercise...Walk,walk,walk.

10-15% Smoking....Quit or cut back.

10%   Bad Diet.....Too much fat, wrong foods.

10%  Too many Drugs/drug abuse...Legal, illegal, including alcohol.


And then another "biggie"...Sickness or Disease..."Don't catch."

I am not the picture of a reformer, but I am still alive..

I think eliminating stress is very important..

I still read labels..

And I try and keep busy, doing something.

But still smoke, eat what I want, and like a little whiskey occassionally.

But take very few drugs...Just heart and chlorestrol.

Mar 14, 2013 1:45PM
Sometimes when you work with "driven" supervisors the stress they cause can be unbearable.
Mar 14, 2013 1:39PM
This is exactly why I RETIRED early, and moved to a warm, sunny, beach location.   Leaving the diabolical boss and cold/rainy weather 3,000 miles behind me, makes me feel like a NEW PERSON.   Its hard to be stressed, when just beach combing at the Beach. 
Mar 14, 2013 3:47PM

I think I was healthier years ago when I could smoke at my desk and when they didn't say to me, "You know, you're lucky to have a job".

Mar 14, 2013 2:01PM
Well well, this case I guess the blood-sucking insurance companies will start charging MORE to everyone who has a job, as there are very few jobs out there with no stress.....they're already getting the smokers, time to start upping the premiums for the workers, huh??
Mar 14, 2013 9:06AM
I scored all 7's on the series of questions. Good thing I retired. Now if I could just give up the smokes.
Mar 14, 2013 2:44PM

Money gives you choices = freedom. You go out and spend a ton of $$$ or i know you going to hate it (Have a family) = less $$$ = more debt/more commitment = more work! I know I am a selfish jerk, but the main reason why I do not have kids is that financial commitment (Things get ugly at my job and i just quit and find another; and i am a top 10% wage earner). **** gets real serious when you raising a kid or go out buying fancy cars and houses...I worked wall street out of school and after 5 years I made great $$ but i swore I would never sell my sole like that again (100 hr work weeks/huge stress/ and bosses who loved to humiliate people). Do NOT put yourself in a situation where you HAVE to stay at your job...I see people blaming your jobs, but you have to take responsibility for yourself and not put yourself in tight spots where you have to stay at a job ( I have done this myself and learned the hard way)... good luck and god bless all you people out there raising a family! For the rest of you..see you at happy hour!

Mar 14, 2013 4:02PM

Here in America it's work until you drop and then they'll kick you over the cliff. Fifty weeks at work, then if you're lucky a measly two week vacation, then you're right back for another fifty weeks with your wonderful boss. And don't forget about that enlightening evaluation coming up.

Mar 14, 2013 12:33PM
Stress......Comes in many disguises, from all levels, and many places.
Mar 14, 2013 3:14PM

I believe it.  It doesn't help that I have Asperger syndrome and employers are very mean to people with Aspergers even if we are doing our job and doing it well.  It seems like employers think God put those of us with autism-spectrum disorders into existence so they can emotionally abuse us and bully us. 


About two years ago, I attended a disability rights caucus, and an attorney who helps people apply for and receive social security disability said that it is relatively easy for people with Aspergers to get SSD because employers are so mean to them.  I believe it. I have been on the receiving end of a lot of abuse several jobs in a row, and there is NO excuse for it.


I have put off applying for disability for two reasons. I really would rather have a job but those of us with Aspergers are usually on the outside looking in when it comes to employment because employers' small minds will not let them give us a chance and because I really don't want to collect disability for a relatively invisible disability.  People would be trying to "turn me in" right and left for being a social security disability cheat.  I would be fighting a new crowd every week, people who cannot mind their own business, and don't try real hard to put themselves in the shoes of those of us who are marginalized for a disability we were born with and didn't ask for.  As for most employers and those who are bigoted against people with disabilities, especially the autism-spectrum disorders, if their minds were parachutes, they'd open on impact.  That is what I like to tell people who are bigots about their close-mindedness and bigotry.  I can defend myself if they actually physically attack me, and before I live my full lifespan, I do expect a bigot type to assault me because that is the way they are.  I also like to tell bigoted types and bullies that their attitude is my only real disability, and that if they mind, they don't matter.  Those who don't mind the fact that I am different in the way that I am, those are the people who matter in life.

Mar 14, 2013 4:07PM
People should start suing their employers for making them sick
Mar 14, 2013 9:46AM

i read thru their survey questions, and many of them i'd classify as "leading questions" that beg a desired answer.  i'm surprised they didn't re-tune the survey differently unless they WANTED a specific result. 


i agree job burnout is real.  i swear half my life since 1979 has been under the threat of layoff.  and i've had my share of a-hole bosses.  i'm not surprised the result doesn't affect your heart.  but i think their results would be more conclusive if they spent time designing a better survey set of questions



I wonder if my job of 20 years had to do with my heart attack I was a teacher. This is very interesting.
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