It’s more stressful to be a waiter than a brain surgeon, and you’re more likely to have a stroke because of it, scientists have found. The lack of control service-industry workers have over their job combined with the heavy workload imposed on them every day make it one of the most stressful industries to work in, according to a new study.
The study, done by the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, analyzed existing research on jobs and stroke risk to determine which jobs put workers most at risk. The report evaluated six previous studies with a combined 138,782 participants. The researchers divided jobs into low-stress jobs and high stress jobs according to specific qualities. Low-stress fields included those with low demand for the job and high control over the decisions that are made, like architecture, neurosurgery, and natural science. High-stress jobs referred to those in higher demand where employees have little control, like waiting tables and working as a nursing aid.
The study found that people with high-stress jobs like those in the service industry had a 58 percent greater chance of having an ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke. Ischemic strokes occur when there is obstruction of a blood vessel that sends blood to the brain. Researchers also found that 4.4 percent of overall stroke risk is because of high job stress, though that number jumps to 6.5 percent if you’re a woman.
“It’s possible that high-stress jobs lead to more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking, and a lack of exercise,” said Dingli Xu, a doctor at Southern Medical University.
Researchers advocated workplace changes to lower the risk of stroke for employees in high-stress jobs. “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,” said Jennifer Majersik of the American Academy of Neurology. “If effective, such workplace changes could have a major public health impact."