Psychosocial work environment and cardiovascular risk factors in an occupational cohort in France

I Niedhammer, M Goldberg, A Leclerc, S David, I Bugel, M F Landre
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 1998, 52 (2): 93-100

STUDY OBJECTIVE: Concordant results have been reported in several studies for the effects of job stress on cardiovascular disease, but the potential mechanisms of these effects have seldom been explored. The aim of this study was therefore to examine, in women and men, the cross sectional relations between psychosocial work variables (psychological demands, decision latitude, and social support) and cardiovascular risk factors (hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, diabetes, overweight, smoking, and alcohol consumption).

PARTICIPANTS: The original cohort comprised 20,625 volunteers (men aged from 40 to 50 and women from 35 to 50) employed by the French Company Electricité De France-Gaz De France and followed up yearly since 1989. The study was restricted to the 13,226 volunteers in the cohort who were still working and answered a self administered questionnaire on psychosocial work factors in 1995.

DESIGN: Data were based on replies to this questionnaire. Three psychosocial work environment exposure scores were used to assess psychological demands, decision latitude, and social support at work respectively. The main outcome measures were the prevalence of hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, and diabetes within the previous 12 months, overweight, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

MAIN RESULTS: Psychosocial work factors were significantly associated with hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, overweight, smoking, and alcohol consumption, but not with diabetes. In men, low decision latitude was associated with hypertension, high decision latitude and high social support with overweight, low decision latitude with alcohol consumption. Moreover, the risk of hyperlipidaemia increased in men exposed to both high psychological demands and low social support. In women, low decision latitude was related to hyperlipidaemia, high psychological demands with overweight, high psychological demands and high decision latitude with smoking, and low social support with alcohol consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: These cross sectional results underline the potential effects of psychosocial work characteristics on cardiovascular risk factors and the differences between the effects of job stress in men and women, and confirm the direct mechanisms (through physiological variables) and indirect mechanisms (through behavioural risk factors) potentially involved in the relation between psychosocial work characteristics and cardiovascular disease.

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