Workplace stress may lead to more doctor visits

Being stressed at work can take a physical toll. A study finds that being in high-strain occupations may be linked with making more trips to see the doctor compared with those in less-stressed jobs.

The study, published recently in the journal BMC Public Health, included a nationally representative sample of 29,110 Canadian workers who were part of the Canadian National Population Health Survey from 2000 to 2008. Researchers looked at those in high-, medium- and low-stress jobs and the number of times they visited a general practitioner or a specialist.

Those in high-stress jobs visited general practitioners 26% more and specialists 27% more compared with those in low-stress jobs. There were no differences among men and women.

Being in a medium-stress job was associated with more doctor visits for women, but not men. “This could be due to differences in stress coping abilities between males and females,” the authors wrote.

“There is medical evidence that stress can adversely affect an individual’s immune system, thereby increasing the risk of disease,” said study co-author Mesbah Sharaf in a news release. “Numerous studies have linked stress to back pain, colorectal cancer, infectious disease, heart problems, headaches and diabetes. Job stress may also heighten risky behaviours such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, discourage healthy behaviours such as physical activity, proper diet and increase consumption of fatty and sweet foods.”