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Work-life conflict and cardiovascular health: 5-year follow-up of the Gutenberg Health Study

Introduction: Work-life conflicts (WLC) may impact health, but few studies prospectively consider the impact of WLC on objective outcomes such as cardiovascular disease. Using data from the Gutenberg Health Study (GHS), we examined if WLC at baseline was associated with an increased five-year incidence of cardiovascular events (myocardial infarct, stroke, atrial fibrillation, peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, sudden cardiac death). We also considered if WLC was associated with incident hypertension and arterial stiffness and if the effects of WLC on cardiovascular health differ for men and women.

Methods: A working subsample of the 15,010 GHS cohort participants completed the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire, which included five "work-privacy conflict" questions at baseline and at the five-year follow-up. Relative risks for incident hypertension due to increased WLC at baseline (WLC scores exceeding 60 out of 100) were estimated with Poisson regression in the subgroup of participants without hypertension at baseline (n = 2426). Categories of WLC at baseline and follow-up were also used to examine the risk of hypertension due to chronic/recurrent WLC. In this subgroup, we also examined the association between WLC as a continuous score ranging from 0 to 100 with change to arterial stiffness after five years using linear regression. Hazard ratios were estimated for incident cardiovascular events in a larger subsample of participants without prevalent cardiovascular disease at baseline (n = 3698) using Cox regression. We used various multivariable regression models to adjust for sex, age, socioeconomic status, occupational, household, and cardiovascular risk factors.

Results: We found no association between WLC and incident hypertension or increased arterial stiffness. The fully-adjusted relative risk for WLC >60 at baseline and hypertension was 0.93 (95% 0.74–1.17). The risk of hypertension due to chronic/recurrent WLC >60 was increased but not statistically significant (RR = 1.13, 95% CI 0.83–1.54). Overall, hazard ratios for incident cardiovascular events were also not increased. However, stratifying the results by sex resulted in a hazard ratio of 1.47 (95% CI 0.54–3.98) for incident cardiovascular disease among women in the fully adjusted model.

Conclusions: Although our results were not statistically significant, they indicate that WLC is negatively impacting the cardiovascular health of women. While these results need to be confirmed with additional research and a longer follow-up, interventions to prevent WLC will promote health and could be especially beneficial for women.

The complete article is published in the Journal "PLoS ONE" (2021).

Bibliographic information

J. Hegewald, K. Romero Starke, S. Garthus-Niegel, A. Schulz, M. Nübling, U. Latza, S. Jankowiak, F. Liebers, K. Rossnagel, M. Riechmann-Wolf, S. Letzel, N. Arnold, M. Beutel, E. Gianicolo, N. Pfeiffer, K. Lackner, T. Münzel, P. Wild, A. Seidler:
Work-life conflict and cardiovascular health: 5-year follow-up of the Gutenberg Health Study. 
in: PLoS ONE, Volume 16, Issue 5 2021. pages 1-15, Project number: F 2338, PDF file, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251260

download file "Work-life conflict and cardiovascular health: 5-year follow-up of the Gutenberg Health Study" (PDF, 625 KB, Not barrier-free file)

Research Project

Project numberF 2338 StatusCompleted Project Occupational risk factors for cardiovascular diseases - prospective analysis of the Gutenberg-Health-Study (GHS)

Find out more : Occupational risk factors for cardiovascular diseases - prospective analysis of the Gutenberg-Health-Study (GHS) …

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