Stress in the Workplace may Decrease an Individual's Risk for Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis

September 10, 2009

Psychosocial work stress has been previously associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. New research now reveals that high work stress may actually decrease an individual's chance of developing inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Psychosocial work stress has been previously associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. New research, published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics now reveals that high work stress may actually decrease an individual’s chance of developing inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Swedish investigators used data from the Epidemiological Investigation of Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis (EIRA) study, which began in 1996 and was conducted through 2003, to determine the impact that “high psychological job demands, low decision latitude and job strain” had on an individual’s chances of developing RA. Although there was a difference in the results that were self-reported and those that were recorded according to a job exposure matrix (JEM), “high psychological job demands tended to be associated with a decreased risk of RA, especially in the JEM-derived data,” and “some evidence that those with high psychological job demands had a decreased risk of RA was found.”

The researchers posed questions to participants that discussed the impact of “high psychological job demands, low decision latitude, and job strain” on patients. Patients between 18-65 years living in middle and southern parts of Sweden participated, for a total of 1,221 patients with RA and 1,454 controls. Results were adjusted for age, sex, residential area, smoking, and social class.

According to the researchers, specific findings of the study showed:

“High psychological job demands tended to be associated with a decreased risk of RA, especially in the JEM-derived data (OR = 0.8, 95% CI = 0.6—1.0). Low decision latitude was associated with an increased risk of RA (selfreported data: OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.2–2.2, JEM-derived data: OR = 1.3, 95% CI = 1.0–1.7). Self-reported job strain was associated with a 30% higher risk of RA, compared with relaxed working conditions, but the CI was wide and the result was not confirmed by JEM-derived data.”