Is Job Burnout Worse for Your Heart Than Smoking?

Here's another reason to learn some new stress management techniques: job burnout, and the stress that goes along with it, might be less healthful than tobacco use, overeating, or living a sedentary lifestyle.

A recent study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that burnout is "a stronger predictor of coronary heart disease than many other known risk factors, including blood lipid levels, physical activity, and smoking."

In an interview with Fortune, study leader Sharon Toker characterized the findings as "alarming and much more extreme than we expected."

"Some of the factors that contribute to burnout are common experiences in the workplace, including high stress, a heavy workload, a lack of control over job situations, a lack of emotional support, and long work hours," Toker says. "These things lead to wear and tear, which will eventually weaken the body."

Burnout was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of coronary artery disease, with the "most burnt-out" subjects experiencing a 79 percent increased risk.

All of which is validating, if you've been suspecting that your job is killing you, but what are we to do about it? It's arguably easier to lose weight or give up even highly addictive habits than it is to convince your boss to give you a break or more control over your working life.

Perhaps the best takeaway here is that if your job is making you feel out of control, exhausted, and unable to do anything else but work, work, work, it's time to think about looking for a new gig -- for the sake of your health. And in the meantime, don't forget to breathe.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Are you burned out at work? How do you cope? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.

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  1. 6 Dale 29 May
    I am 66 years old and have been in accounting off and mostly on for the past 40 plus years.  The constant stress of deadlines, audits, and all the work that comes from being in this kind of position have taken their toll.  I am burned out, a stress eater, tired and have suffered from clinical depression for many years.  For most of these years I have had to work alone and carry the whole burden.  The biggest change I have seen in the past year or two has been my thinking processes and memory are not like they were.  I know this is part of the aging process but all of the stress and frustrations have taken their toll.  I'm planning on going part time after December until I can fully retire this time next year.  Save your money youngsters.  Even $5.00 a week, just plan for retirement really early.  The government is not going to take care of you!!!  
  2. 5 D Marks 06 May

    My ex partner is a restaurant manager.  He regularly worked 60 hours a week.  Then his assistant manager resigned and was never replaced.  He stepped up to 80 hours per week and had no one to share the load with.

    Eventually I got tired of looking at his thin worn out body and the relationship broke down.  His daughters barely know him and agree he looks aged.

    It is amazing that he has only gone to the doctors once in 8 years, however he looks like he ready for the undertakers

    What do you think someone look like when they put in those kind of hours EVERY week, year in year out?

    He didn't even have time to eat.  Apart from looking older than my Dad he was pretty much closer to the grave too.

    All his staff ccomplain that the hours are too long, the and the rewards too low.  They never stay and he is always having to retrain new staff every summer.

    He collapses in the sofa and wakes up around 4am to go to his bed and then he struggles to get up and goes round and round, year in year out.  He has no friends, just work and more work.


  3. 4 Raj 06 May
    I work for a manager who thinks his staff should work nine-hour days even if there isn't a specific reason for doing so. I think it stems from the fact that he is non-technical but manages a group of IT professionals.  He's unable to measure our productivity or skill sets.  The only thing he can measure is attendance.  So he gives accolades for putting in long hours even if your productivity is lower by doing so.  To make things worse, responding to email after hours and being on-call doesn't really count as working in his mind.
  4. 3 Lori 03 May

    I work in nursing, specifically geriatric nursing. The word 'burn-out' is part of our job description. Where once I cared for clients in a nursing fashion, I now have added responsibilities that once was the job of housekeeping and kitchen staff. The paperwork...oh don't even get me started. I have left the field, make less money in my new career and am happy as clam. I burned out in less than 15 yrs. I highly do not recommend a nursing career..ever. Thanks to all the management that decided cutting corners and making money was a bigger priority than patient care.

  5. 2 Rahul Singh 02 May

    wGone are the days when typical offices would work between 9 am to 5 pm. With the advancement in technology there are practically no fixed working hours. It is 24 x 365 days. Man has become machine. Earlier there was some peace when cell phones were not there. However, today they have robbed our peace.

    So these days man is being squeezed from the pressure of clients, boss and peer pressure to earn more and more; and yet there is no harmony and contentment in present day life. Hence diseases like Obesity, Heart related problems, Diabetes,Spondolities, Slip disk and other hormonal imbalances are taking a big toll on the working group.

    The thumb rule is, higher the pay pack more the trouble.One has to draw a line and not chase money at the cost of health. More money is buying more of junk food leading to laziness and sedentary life style and the host of diseases.

  6. 1 Dave 02 May

    I think the thing to keep in mind is that burnout was "associated" with an increased risk, not necessarily a causal factor.  I would guess someone who feels out of control in their job, also feels the same way about their health in general.  The two may be correlated, but I bet there are other factors that are leading to both.


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