Objectives: We examined the associations of job strain, an indicator of work-related stress, with overall unhealthy and healthy lifestyles.
Methods: We conducted a meta-analysis of individual-level data from 11 European studies (cross-sectional data: n = 118,701; longitudinal data: n = 43,971). We analyzed job strain as a set of binary (job strain vs no job strain) and categorical (high job strain, active job, passive job, and low job strain) variables. Factors used to define healthy and unhealthy lifestyles were body mass index, smoking, alcohol intake, and leisure-time physical activity.
Results: Individuals with job strain were more likely than those with no job strain to have 4 unhealthy lifestyle factors (odds ratio [OR] = 1.25; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.12, 1.39) and less likely to have 4 healthy lifestyle factors (OR = 0.89; 95% CI = 0.80, 0.99). The odds of adopting a healthy lifestyle during study follow-up were lower among individuals with high job strain than among those with low job strain (OR = 0.88; 95% CI = 0.81, 0.96).
Conclusions: Work-related stress is associated with unhealthy lifestyles and the absence of stress is associated with healthy lifestyles, but longitudinal analyses suggest no straightforward cause-effect relationship between work-related stress and lifestyle.