These stressors may put women at more risk of coronary heart disease

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Since the coronavirus caused many people around the world to remain at home rather than work in the office, many have become familiar with growing stress from home and work responsibilities colliding in the same environment.

But a new study shows social and work stress can doubly affect women. In fact, research from Drexel University has shown that women are at an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease from these stressors.

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Results announced by the private research university on April 6 show that work and social stress are linked to a 21% higher risk of developing what’s also called coronary artery disease. It is the type of disease that occurs when the heart arteries cannot provide enough oxygen-rich blood to the organ. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, it is the leading cause of death in the United States.

For the study, researchers used data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, which followed participants from 1991 to 2015 in order to discover improved means of preventing cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis in women.

The Drexel study gathered a nationally representative sample of 80,825 postmenopausal women from the WHI study. The researchers then examined how stress from job strain, stressful life events and social pressure influenced the development of coronary heart disease.

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It was found that almost 5% of women developed coronary heart disease during the 14-year, seven-month study. High-stress life events were linked to a 12% increased coronary heart disease risk when adjusted for age, time at a job and socioeconomic characteristics. High social strain was linked to a 9% increased risk of coronary heart disease when adjusted for the same aspects. Work strain alone, however, was not tied to coronary heart disease.

Researchers note that the pandemic and how it has transformed work and home life has influenced how much women have had to deal with work and social stress together.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted ongoing stresses for women in balancing paid work and social stressors. We know from other studies that work strain may play a role in developing CHD, but now we can better pinpoint the combined impact of stress at work and at home on these poor health outcomes,” senior author Yvonne Michael, an associate professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health said in a statement.

“My hope is that these findings are a call for better methods of monitoring stress in the workplace and remind us of the dual-burden working women face as a result of their unpaid work as caregivers at home.”

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