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In some cases, men appear to be more sensitive to stress than women. A large study shows that there is a link between premature death and prolonged stress if you have previously had diabetes or heart disease.

It is not women, but men, who die at an earlier age when living a stressful life. The study was conducted by researchers at the Jönköping University of Health in Sweden and has been published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

The researchers cannot determine what this gender difference is due to, but the severity of previous cardiovascular disease or diabetes could play a role. That men on average have a more serious disease history.

Over 100,000 people in Sweden, Finland, France and the UK were asked to fill out a questionnaire about stress in the workplace. 14 years later, the researchers looked at patient records to see what happened to the individuals.

The results show that men who experienced long-term stress at work and in addition had diabetes or previous cardiovascular disease had up to a 70 percent increased the risk of mortality 14 years later than those who did not experience stress at work. There was no such link among women.

Men who had cardiometabolic disease and job strain experienced “substantially higher” rates of age-standardized mortality than those without job strain (149.8 vs 97.7 per 10,000 person-years; mortality difference 52.1 per 10,000 person-years; hazard ratio: 1.68; 95% CI, 1.19-2.35). For women, age-adjusted death rates were 64 vs 53.2 for job strain vs no job strain, and mortality was not significantly associated with job strain or effort-reward imbalance.

The relationship among men is only a correlation and the researchers note that they aren’t able to determine a direct causal link between stress and increased mortality, as the researchers did determine how stress changed during their lifetime.

“To our knowledge, this is the first large-scale study to examine the work stress-mortality association stratified by cardiometabolic risk profile,”

“Our data showed that job strain substantially increased mortality risk even in subgroups of men with prevalent cardiometabolic disease but a favorable cardiometabolic risk profile, suggesting that standard care targeting conventional and lifestyle risk factors (e.g., blood pressure, lipids, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity) does not necessarily mitigate the excess mortality risk associated with job strain.”

Further studies are needed in order to really determine the causal relationship, such as repeated measurements to see how to really experience their work situation.

“Subsequent research should employ intervention designs to establish whether systematic screening and management of work stressors, such as job strain, would contribute to improved health outcomes in men with prevalent coronary heart disease, stroke, or diabetes.”


Mika Kivimäki et al. “Work stress and risk of death in men and women with and without cardiometabolic disease: a multicohort study” The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. June 5, 2018