Fear of Layoffs Raise Men's Blood Pressure

Work-related worries and other psychological stressors can contribute to high blood pressure, but job strain may be particularly hard on men, researchers report.

In a study, researchers found that besides the traditional risk factors for high blood pressure -- such as smoking, inactivity and being overweight -- several psychological factors stood out among the 27 percent of participants who developed high blood pressure over a two decade period.

For men, unemployment, job insecurity and feelings of inadequacy in their job performance were all linked to at least a 50 percent greater risk of high blood pressure.

Having a "low-status" job was the only work-related factor linked to high blood pressure among women.

The women were more likely to be affected by relationship-related feelings such as loneliness -- but much of this association, according to the researchers, was explained by the poorer health habits of these women.

In the study, the researchers examined 20 years of health and lifestyle data gathered on nearly 2,400 men and women in one California county.

The findings are published in the May 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The new research suggests that psychological factors affect men and women differently, according to Dr. Susan Levenstein of the Human Population Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., and colleagues.

The sex differences in this study may be due to differences in the way men's and women's cardiovascular systems respond to stress, Levenstein's team speculates.

"It may also be conjectured," they added, "that the threat or reality of unemployment could be particularly devastating for men, for psychological and/or practical reasons."

The researchers note that other studies have hinted that men may be more sensitive to "work-related threats to their autonomy," and women to strains in relationships with family and friends.

Edited by Virginia Sutcliffe

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