Job Stress Linked To Rheumatoid Arthritis
Researchers have found new links between stress at work and risk of rheumatoid arthritis. It seems that low levels of job-related control may increase the risk, but high demands may actually be protective.
A team led by Dr. Camilla Bengtsson at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden used figures on 1,221 rheumatoid arthritis patients aged 18 to 65 years, and 1,454 similar healthy people.
Psychological job demands and job “decision latitude,” or personal control, were measured by questionnaire. Participants facing high demands with low control were defined as experiencing “job strain” as opposed to relaxed working conditions.
Earlier work has linked job strain with an increased risk of several diseases, including heart disease, because of a possible association with inflammation. But it has not previously been studied in relation to rheumatoid arthritis.
The team explains, “Data on environmental factors that may cause rheumatoid arthritis is scarce.” Results of their new study appear in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.
Low decision latitude was linked to a 60 percent increase in risk of rheumatoid arthritis, but surprisingly, high psychological job demands were linked to a 20 percent lower risk. Job strain, a combination of the two, was linked with a 30 percent higher risk, compared with relaxed working conditions.
The team concludes, “The main new finding of this study was that low decision latitude was associated with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, some evidence that those with high psychological job demands had a decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis was found.”
Dr. Maurizio Cutolo of the University of Genoa, Italy, has looked into this link. He writes, “Stress is now recognized as an important risk factor in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.”