A stressful job increases your risk of cancer and heart attack, a new study warns

Stress is a common emotion that most have felt from time to time. But if you’re constantly in a state of anger and panic because of your job, it could seriously affect your overall health later in life, a new study warns

The serious health consequences of stress, according to new research
The serious health consequences of stress, according to new research

Stress, in the form of a traumatic event or work-related exposure, has been found to accelerate aging of the immune system, potentially increasing a person’s risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases such as a heart attack, according to a new study.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) could explain age-related health and identify possible points of intervention.

As people age, their immune systems naturally begin to deteriorate dramatically.

As a person ages, a person’s immune profile becomes extremely weak, affecting the cells in the body that enable it to fight off new invaders, and so disease becomes more common.

Stress affects your overall health, from work problems to traumatic events


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The study used a cross-referenced dataset from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, calculating various forms of social stress.

Responses from 5,774 adults over the age of 50 were used with questions about experiences of social stress, including stressful life events, chronic stress, everyday and lifelong discrimination.

Blood samples were then analyzed and, as expected, people with more stressed nuclei had an older-appearing immune profile, which impacted their risk of cancer and heart attack.

Immune aging is associated not only with cancer but also with cardiovascular disease, an increased risk of pneumonia and the aging of organ systems.

The researchers wanted to find out what accounts for drastic health differences in adults of the same age, with stress being a major risk factor.

“As the world population of older adults increases, it is important to understand disparities in age-related health,” said the study’s lead author Eric Klopack, a postdoctoral researcher at USC’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

He added, “This study helps elucidate mechanisms involved in accelerated immune aging.”

Other health conditions that are aggravated by stress include:

  • heart disease
  • asthma
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • headache
  • depression
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Accelerated aging
  • premature death

“In this study, the association between stress and accelerated immune aging was not as strong after statistically controlling for poor diet and little exercise,” added Klopack.

“This means that people who experience more stress tend to have poorer diet and exercise habits, which partially explains why they have faster immune aging.”

Improving diet and exercise behaviors in older adults may help offset stress-related immune aging.

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