Work-related stress more often leads to atherosclerosis

Increased risk of peripheral artery disease due to work stress

People suffering from work-related stress are more likely to be hospitalized for peripheral arterial diseases such as atherosclerosis than those who do not suffer from work stress. This emerges from a recent American study.

American Heart Association researchers shed light on the complex relationships between psychosocial factors and cardiovascular health. It was shown that stress at work is associated with an increased risk of peripheral arterial disease. The study was recently published in a special issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

What is peripheral arterial disease?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a cardiovascular disease that occurs when cholesterol or other fatty substances in the blood are deposited in the blood vessels and restrict blood flow. This happens particularly often in the legs, which is why leg pain when walking can indicate such diseases. Untreated blood vessel bottlenecks increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Peripheral artery disease affects over 200 million people worldwide. Nevertheless, the risk factors are considered to be insufficiently understood.

Work-related stress leads to more PAD hospitalizations

Work-related stress and work stress refers to psychological and social stress at work, which is often due to high expectations combined with a lower level of personal control. Previous studies have linked atherosclerotic disease to stress. The current study focused on the relationship between work-related stress and the related hospital treatment for peripheral artery disease.

Data from 139,000 participants evaluated

The research team evaluated the data from 139,000 men and women. The data come from eleven different studies that were carried out in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and England from 1985 to 2008. The average age of the participants at the start of the studies was between 39 and 49 years. All subjects had no history of peripheral artery disease at baseline.

Individual risk factors such as age, gender, BMI, smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity level, the presence of diabetes and the socio-economic position were taken into account in the study.

Almost 13 years of observation

During the average follow-up period of 12.8 years, a total of 667 people were treated for peripheral arterial disease in the hospital. After eliminating all known risk factors, the research team showed that people with work-related stress were hospitalized 1.4 times more often for such diseases than people who did not suffer from this type of stress.

Possible reasons for the connection

Stress is associated with increased inflammation and higher blood sugar levels. Although there is little evidence of a link between work-related stress and heart disease, stress could contribute to complications and exacerbations of peripheral artery disease, the researchers suspect.

Limitations of the study

The research team points out that only the peripheral arterial disease treated in the hospital was recorded, which means that the results cannot be generalized to less severe forms of the disease. Certain health information, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, was also not available.

Good stress management is becoming increasingly important

The harmful effects of stress are being underpinned by more and more studies. Successful stress management seems to gain increasing relevance for maintaining health. You can find more information about stress management in the article "Stress Relief: Stress Relief Made Easy". (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • American Heart Association: Work-related stress linked to increased risk for peripheral artery disease (published: April 28th, 2020),
  • Katriina Heikkilä, Jaana Pentti, Ida E. H. Madsen, u.a .: Job Strain as a Risk Factor for Peripheral Artery Disease: A Multi ‐ Cohort Study; in: JAHA, 2020,

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