Work stress, sleep disorders, and fatigue ‘rising more steeply in women’

·3-min read

Work stress, sleep disorders, and fatigue, considered as non-traditional risk factors for heart attack and stroke, are rising more steeply in women than men, a new study suggests.

Researchers compared data from 22,000 men and women in the Swiss Health Survey from 2007, 2012, and 2017 and found what they described as an alarming rise in the number of women reporting the non-traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

They suggest this trend coincided with an increase in the number of women working full-time from 38% in 2007 to 44% in 2017.

In both men and women, the number of people reporting stress at work rose from 59% in 2012 to 66% in 2017.

While those reporting feeling tired and fatigued increased from 23% to 29% – to 33% in women and 26% in men.

Over the same period, the number reporting sleep disorders increased from 24% to 29%, with severe sleep disorders also rising more sharply in women (8%) than in men (5%), the researchers found.

However, the study also found the traditional risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease had remained stable in the same time period.

More than a quarter (27%) of people suffered from hypertension, 18% with raised cholesterol and 5% with diabetes.

Obesity increased to 11% and smoking decreased from approximately 10.5 to 9.5 cigarettes per day, but both were more prevalent in men.

The study authors were Dr Martin Hansel, neurologist at the University Hospital Zurich and Dr Susanne Wegener, professor of neurology at the University of Zurich.

They said: “Our study found men were more likely to smoke and be obese than women, but females reported a bigger increase in the non-traditional risk factors for heart attacks and strokes, such as work stress, sleep disorders, and feeling tired and fatigued.

“This increase coincides with the number of women working full time.

“Juggling work and domestic responsibilities or other socio-cultural aspects may be a factor, as well as specific health demands of women that may not be accounted for in our daily busy lives.

“We found an overall increase in non-traditional risk factors in both sexes, but these were more pronounced in female participants, while most traditional cardiovascular risk factors remained stable.

“These results underscore the fact that sex differences exist for non-traditional CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk factors with an alarming trend towards a particular increase in women.”

Dr Wegener explained that diabetes, arterial hypertension, raised cholesterol, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity are recognised modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

However, recently it has been noted that non-traditional risk factors such as work pressures and sleep problems can significantly add to cardiovascular risk.

Dr Wegener said: “Traditionally men have been perceived to be more affected by heart attacks and strokes than women, but in some countries, women have overtaken men.

“There is a gender gap and further research is needed to find out why.”

The research was presented at the European Stroke Organisation (ESO) Conference.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting