Stressful Jobs Could Make You Old and Sick Before Time
Led by Kirsi Ahola of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the researchers measured the length of DNA sections called telomeres and how the lengths varied in association with job stress and found that people suffering from the most job stress tended to have shorter telomeres.
Telomeres, located at the ends of chromosomes, serve as a type of protective cap to the ropy strands, helping assure that the genetic instructions carried by genes on the chromosomes are accurately translated so cells get the right messages.
Telomeres shorten with age, oxidation and chemical insults. Often, when telomeres reach a critically short length, the cell dies in a process called apoptosis, according to NBC News.
Some cells do not die, but rather become what scientists call 'senescent' - they start making genetic errors and causing damage.
Ahola and her team analyzed blood cells called leukocytes - which are critical to immune function - in 2,911 people between ages 30 and 64.
They found that workers who experienced severe exhaustion from job stress had significantly shorter leukocyte telomeres than their relatively stress-free counterparts.
But it appears that frazzled wage earners have more to worry about than crow's feet, wrinkles and greying locks. Telomere shortening has been linked to Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
In short, being in a constant state of anxiety at your workplace could make you old before your time and expose you to illnesses associated with aging.
"I think that these results should be used when considering health hazards and work place legislation. Chronic work stress can become a health risk and should be prevented," the Daily Mail quoted Ahola as telling NBC News.
The research appeared in the journal PloS One this month.