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.

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