Published:  2004-10

Overcommitment to Work Is Associated With Changes in Cardiac Sympathetic Regulation

Authors:  Tanja G. M. Vrijkotte, Lorenz J. P. van Doornen, Eco J. C. de Geus


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Work stress is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Exaggerated cardiovascular reactivity to work-related stressors or incomplete recovery after work is a proposed mechanism underlying this increase in risk. This study examined the effects of work stress on 24-hour profiles of the pre-ejection period (PEP), a measure of cardiac sympathetic activity, obtained from ambulatory measurement of the impedance cardiogram.
A total of 67 male white-collar workers (age 47.1 ± 5.2) underwent ambulatory monitoring on 2 workdays and 1 non-workday. Work stress was defined according to Siegrist’s model as 1) a combination of high effort and low reward at work (high imbalance) or 2) an exhaustive work-related coping style (high overcommitment).
High overcommitment was associated with shorter absolute PEP levels during all periods on all 3 measurement days, reduced wake-to-sleep PEP differences and reduced PEP variability, as indexed by the SD.
Overcommitment to work was associated with an increase in basal sympathetic drive and a reduction in the dynamic range of cardiac sympathetic regulation. Both findings are compatible with the hypothesis that overcommitment induces β-receptor down-regulation.
BP = blood pressure;
BMI = body mass index;
CVD = cardiovascular disease;
ERI = effort-reward imbalance;
HR = heart rate;
ICG = impedance cardiograms;
MANOVA = multivariate analysis of variance;
PAI-1 = plasminogen activator inhibitor;
PEP = pre-ejection period;
SDPEP = SD pre-ejection period;
VU-AMS = Vrije Universiteit Ambulatory Monitoring System;
WHR = waist to hip ratio.