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The perception of work stressors is related to reduced parasympathetic activity

  • Els Clays
  • Dirk De Bacquer
  • Vincent Crasset
  • France Kittel
  • Patrick de Smet
  • Marcel Kornitzer
  • Robert Karasek
  • Guy De Backer
Original Article

Abstract

Purpose

The aim was to examine the perception of work stressors in relation to ambulatory measures of heart rate variability (HRV).

Methods

Results are based on a sample of 653 healthy male workers aged 40–55 from the Belgian Physical Fitness Study conducted in 1976–1978. Data were collected by means of self-administered questionnaires and bio-clinical examinations. An index of physical and psychosocial work stressors containing five items was constructed based on the job stress questionnaire. Data on HRV were collected by means of 24-h ambulatory ECG recordings on a working day. Both time and frequency domain measures of HRV were calculated. Associations between work stressors and HRV measures were assessed by means of correlations, multiple linear regression analysis and analysis of (co)variance.

Results

The work stressor index was significantly associated with lower pNN50 (the percentage of differences between adjacent normal RR intervals >50 ms), lower high frequency power and a higher ratio of low frequency over high frequency power. Very similar results were obtained after adjusting for age, language, occupation, smoking, body mass index, total cholesterol, systolic blood pressure and leisure time physical activity. No significant associations were found with SDNN (the standard deviation of all normal RR intervals) and low frequency power.

Conclusions

The perception of work stressors was related to reduced parasympathetic activity in a sample of 653 healthy male workers. These findings support the idea that particularly the parasympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system is related to work stress.

Keywords

Work Stress Coronary heart disease Heart rate variability 

Notes

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Els Clays
    • 1
  • Dirk De Bacquer
    • 1
  • Vincent Crasset
    • 2
  • France Kittel
    • 2
  • Patrick de Smet
    • 2
  • Marcel Kornitzer
    • 2
  • Robert Karasek
    • 3
    • 4
  • Guy De Backer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Public HealthGhent University, University HospitalGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, School of Public HealthFree University of BrusselsBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Work EnvironmentUniversity of MassachusettsLowellUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyCopenhagen UniversityCopenhagenDenmark

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