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Stress At Work May Affect Health During Retirement

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
June 12, 2009

A new study indicates that retirement-age Americans who held higher-status jobs tend to have the lowest rates of hypertension, while those with lower-status jobs are more likely to have the highest rates.

"People's occupations during their working years can clearly be a risk for hypertension after they retire," explained Paul Leigh, professor at the Center for Healthcare Policy and Research at the University of California at Davis, who co-authored the study and was quoted in U.S. News & World Report. "The body seems to have built up a stress reaction that takes years to ramp down and may last well beyond age 75."

The study was published in the June issue of the Journal of Occupations and Environmental Medicine, and was based on data from 7,289 Americans over age 65 collected from March 2004 to February 2005. The findings suggested that employees who held higher-status jobs, such as chief executives, financial managers and management analysts, were found to have the lowest rates of hypertension in retirement. Workers in jobs with less control over decision-making--such as sales, administrative support and construction--tended to have the highest rates.

"For a long time, the conventional wisdom was that the people at the top would be more likely to have hypertension, but just the opposite is true," said Leigh in a press release. "Hypertension is more common among people on the lowest rungs of the occupational ladder."

Hypertension is a condition when blood pressure on the artery walls is too high, which can eventually lead to angina, heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, kidney failure and other serious problems. Leigh noted that the study indicated that many more people may have job-related hypertension than previously believed. He expressed hope that physicians would begin taking occupation into account when assessing patients for hypertension risks.

"We don't want to downplay the importance of lifestyle issues and health," said Leigh. "But, in addition to recommending lifestyle changes and prescribing medication, physicians could advocate for a change of working conditions for these jobs in society at large to improve health outcomes for workers."

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