Introduction: The aim of this investigation was to examine the extent to which work organization (i.e., occupational stress) is associated with subclinical carotid atherosclerosis.
Methods: For that purpose we used a cross-sectional study of four U.S. community samples conducted between 1987 and 1989. Participants in the study were 10,801 adults aged 45 to 64 years. Subclinical carotid atherosclerosis was assessed by measuring the intima-media thickness (IMT) of the carotid artery wall using B-mode ultrasound. Occupational stress was defined using six indicators: substantive complexity of work, physical demands, job insecurity, skill discretion, decision authority, and physical exertion. Information from U.S. national surveys on occupational stress indicators was linked to the study participants' occupation.
Results: We observed negative associations of complexity of work and skill discretion with mean IMT of the carotid artery wall among the four race-gender groups. In addition, physical demands was positively associated with mean IMT among blacks and job insecurity was positively associated with IMT among white women and black men. After adjustment for well-established risk factors, the magnitude of these associations was substantially reduced.
Conclusions: Taken in combination with results from recent European studies, our findings suggest that work organization plays a role in the etiology of atherosclerosis.