More control over tasks lowers risk of heart disease in workers, finds study

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Employees with bosses who micromanage them are at greater risk of heart attack than those given more flexibility and control over tasks, a new study has found.

The researchers ran training interventions across two work sites, one in an IT company with 555 employees and a care provider employing 973 workers.

The IT employees consisted of men and women with good salaries; the care workers were mostly female, low-wage earners.

Managers were trained on strategies to show support for employees’ personal and family lives alongside their job performances.

Employees with bosses who micromanage them are at greater risk of heart attack than those given more flexibility and control over tasks, the study found. Photograph: iStock

Supervisors also attended training to identify new ways to increase employees’ control over their schedules and tasks.

After the interventions, researchers found that for employees who had a higher baseline risk of developing heart conditions, their risk of succumbing to disease fell to someone ten years younger.

The study, published on 8 November in the American Journal of Public Health, claims it is among the first to assess whether changes to the work environment can affect cardiometabolic risk.

Co-lead author Lisa Berkman said: “Working conditions are important social determinants of health. When stressful workplace conditions and work-family conflict were mitigated, we saw a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease among more vulnerable employees, without any negative impact on their productivity. These findings could be particularly consequential for low and middle-wage workers who traditionally have less control over their schedules and job demands and are subject to greater health inequities.”

Fellow author Orfeu Buxton added: “The intervention was designed to change the culture of the workplace over time with the intention of reducing conflict between employees’ work and personal lives and ultimately improving their health."

“Now we know such changes can improve employee health and should be more broadly implemented.”

To arrive at the results, 1,528 employees across the experimental and control groups had their blood pressure, body mass index, haemoglobin, smoking status and cholesterol recorded at the beginning of the study and again 12 months later.

Those with the greater number of baseline risk factors and employees older than 45 saw the biggest reduction in their overall chance of getting heart disease.


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