Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Work Stress and Early Atherosclerosis: Do Genetic Background and Pre-Employment Risk Factors Explain Conflicting Findings?

Mirka Hintsanen

Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Department of Psychology.

According to the models conceptualizing work stress, increased risk of health problems arise when high job demands co-occur with low job control (the demand-control model) or the efforts invested by the employee are disproportionately high compared to the rewards received (effort-reward imbalance model). This study examined the association between work stress and early atherosclerosis with particular attention to the role of pre-employment risk factors and genetic background in this association. The subjects were young healthy adults aged 24-39 who were participating in the 21-year follow-up of the ongoing prospective "Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns" study in 2001-2002. Work stress was evaluated with questionnaires on demand-control model and on effort-reward model. Atherosclerosis was assessed with ultrasound of carotid artery intima-media thickness (IMT). In addition, risk for enhanced atherosclerotic process was assessed by measuring with heart rate variability and heart rate. Pre-employment risk factors, measured at age 12 to 18, included such as body mass index, blood lipids, family history of coronary heart disease, and parental socioeconomic position. Variants of the neuregulin-1 were determined using genomic DNA.

The results showed that higher work stress was associated with higher IMT in men. This association was not attenuated by traditional risk factors of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease or by pre-employment risk factors measured in adolescence. Neuregulin-1 gene moderated the association between work stress and IMT in men. A significant association between work stress and IMT was found only for the T/T genotype of the neuregulin-1 gene but not for other genotypes. Among women an association was found between higher work stress and lower heart rate variability, suggesting higher risk for developing atherosclerosis. These associations could not be explained by demographic characteristics or coronary risk factors.

The present findings provide evidence for an association between work stress and atherosclerosis in relatively young population. This association seems to be modified by genetic influences but it does not appear to be confounded by pre-employment adolescent risk factors.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 30.11.2006

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