Stressful Jobs Keep Stroke Patients From Work

The physical and psychological demands of a patient's job influence whether he or she will return to work after having a mild\r\nto moderately severe stroke.

The physical and psychological demands of a patient''s job influence whether he or she will return to work after having a mild to moderately severe stroke, according to a report presented at the 26th International Stroke Conference of American Heart Association.

"This is the first time that we have actually looked at job characteristics to see how they influenced how fast people can go back to work after having an ischemic stroke," said Dr. Marcella Wozniak, from the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke and are caused by a reduction of blood flow to the brain, usually due to a clot.

Wozniak and colleagues studied 174 people aged 24 to 64 years who had been working full time before experiencing an ischemic stroke.

About six weeks after the stroke, each patient filled out a series of questionnaires. At six months and 12 months, patients were contacted to see if they had returned to work.

"We found that at the end of one year, about 34 percent of the patients had not been able to return to work and about 55 percent had returned," said Wozniak.

While the severity of the stroke was a significant factor, job characteristics also significantly predicted return to work.

Other factors such as race, ethnic background, gender, income, depression were not at all associated with return to work, noted Wozniak.

The physical demands of the job, the psychological demands of the job, and job insecurity were associated with return to work.

"If the job was more physically demanding or it was more stressful, or if (they) felt their chance of being fired in the next 5 years was good, patients were less likely to return to work," said Wozniak.

She and her associates also found that social support on the job tended to be an important factor as well.

"If patients felt that their boss and coworkers were supportive, patients were more likely to go back to work," said Wozniak.

"We would like to develop interventions to help people get back to work. You can work to lessen the degree of job demand, and increase the social support," she continued. "On a practical level, you might have to tell some patients that they are going to have difficulty going back to work, and maybe they should explore the possibilities of disability."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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