By John Von Radowitz
Scientists found that people in stressful jobs are 23 per cent more likely to experience an event linked to heart disease than less stressed individuals.
They came to the conclusion after analysing data on almost 200,000 people from seven European countries.
"Our findings indicate that job strain is associated with a small but consistent increased risk of experiencing a first coronary heart disease event, such as a heart attack," said study leader Professor Mika Kivimaki, from University College London.
The researchers defined a stressful job as one involving high workload coupled with little freedom to make decisions.
People often link work stress to heart problems, but in reality previous research on the subject has been inconclusive.
All the men and women taking part completed questionnaires about their jobs, workload, deadlines and freedom to make decisions. None had suffered a heart attack before providing the details.
Over an average follow-up period of 7.5 years, researchers recorded a total of 2,356 cases of heart disease events. These included hospital admissions due to heart attacks and deaths from heart disease.
The greater risk reported for people in stressful jobs remained after taking into account factors such as lifestyle, age, gender and socio-economic background.
The findings are published today in the latest online edition of The Lancet medical journal.