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The most stressful job? Waitressing, say scientists

The most stressful job? Waitressing, say scientists


Menial jobs like waitressing are far more stressful than professions like medicine or architecture, says scientists, as they warn of stroke risk


Source: The Telegraph

By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor

14 Oct 2015


Ask anyone to name the most stressful professions and they might guess neurosurgeon, bomb diffuser, miner or even stockbroker.


But a new study suggests that it is menial, thankless jobs that leave people suffering the most stress, and are consequently the most damaging to health.


Chinese scientists have found that low paid jobs with a high work-load, such as waitressing, leave employees at far greater risk from heart problems and 58 per cent more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke – the most common type of stroke which is caused by a blockage of blood flow.


In contrast it is scientists and architects who seem to be the least stressed professionals, and therefore at no extra risk of heart problems.


The researchers believe that people who experience high levels of stress at work are less likely to look after themselves and often resort to drinking and smoking. Many are also forced to work disruptive shift patterns which have been linked to cancer and poor health.


“Having a lot of job stress has been linked to heart disease, but studies on job stress and stroke have shown inconsistent results,” said Dingli Xu, MD, with Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.


“It’s possible that high stress jobs lead to more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking and a lack of exercise.”


Scientists say stress in a job is largely dependent on feeling in control and respected. While doctors, teachers and other professionals may have mentally taxing jobs, they feel empowered and so do not become as stressed. In contrast those in jobs in the service industry are often vulnerable to the whims of customers and management. And they often work long, unsociable hours to serve workers after the usual 9-5 working day.


In 2012, McDonalds’ worker Sarah Finch, 19, sued the fast food chain for £3,000 after she was fired for gross misconduct after giving extra chocolate topping to a workmate on a 99p McFlurry.


A McDonald’s waitress won £3,000 compensation today for being fired after sprinkling too much chocolate on an ice-cream. Sarah Finch was sacked from a McDonalds restaurant in Cardiff after sprinkling too much topping onto a 99p McFlurry 


The analysis looked at all of the available research on job strain and stroke risk. The six studies analyzed involved a total of 138,782 participants who were followed for three to 17 years.


Jobs were classified into four groups based on how much control workers had over their jobs and how hard they worked, or the psychological demands of the job which included deadlines, mental exertion.


High stress jobs were generally found in the service industry and include waitresses and nursing aides. In contrast, low stress jobs were defined as scientists and architects. Passive jobs where there was low demand and low control included janitors, miners and manual labourers. And active jobs were defined as professionals who despite performing difficult tasks, were largely autonomous,


The researchers calculated that 4.4 percent of the stroke risk was due to the high stress jobs. For women, that number increased to 6.5 per cent.


“Based on this study, it is reasonable to consider testing interventions aimed at increasing job control, such as decentralization of decision-making and flexibility in job structure, such as telecommuting.


“If effective, such workplace changes could have a major public health impact,” said Jennifer J. Majersik, MD, MS, with the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, who wrote a corresponding editorial.


Charities said it was crucial that more research was carried out to see whether work stress directly impacted health, or simply encouraged negative behaviours.


Christopher Allen, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “We know that stress can have a negative impact on our health. Past research suggests that there may be an increased risk of certain types of heart disease, and this analysis also highlights an increased risk of stroke.


“Stress can affect people in many different ways. While some turn to eating junk food, others may smoke or avoid exercise, which all increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.


“More research is needed to determine whether these responses to stress are the main cause of risk increase, or if there is a clinical link.”


The research was published in the journal Neurology.