Does your job provide a variety of tasks? Do you have the opportunity to develop your own special abilities? Are you able to make work-related decisions on your own? Do you have the freedom to decide how you do your work?

If so, you may have a job that gives you a high level of control. This kind of control correlates with a decreased risk of high blood pressure in many occupations, according to a study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health with university partners.

In this study, workers with the highest level of job control were less likely to have high blood pressure than were workers with the lowest level of job control.

This association occurred in many different job areas, including management/ professional, sales/office, and production.

Pattern Reversed

However, in the case of healthcare support workers (for example, home health aides, nursing assistants, dental assistants, medical transcriptionists, pharmacy aides, and phlebotomists), the pattern reversed; high job control correlated with a greater risk for high blood pressure.

Although overall a greater proportion of men than women had high blood pressure, more women in healthcare support and two blue-collar job areas (production; and installation, repair, and maintenance) had high blood pressure. The results were similar across racial/ethnic groups.

Study Details

Investigators examined the association between occupational information on 2,517 voluntary participants and blood pressure data collected by the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Increasing job control could help decrease the prevalence and incidence of high blood pressure among workers.
MESA recruited study participants from six communities, in Forsyth County, North Carolina; Manhattan and Bronx, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; St. Paul, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; and Los Angeles, California.

The study oversampled racial/ethnic minorities to ensure sample diversity: 38% were white, 28% were black, 23% were Hispanic, and 11% were Chinese-American. Their average age was 57 years, and all worked at least 20 hours per week at the time of the study, from 2002 to 2004.

Overall, the findings from this study suggest that increasing job control could help decrease the prevalence and incidence of high blood pressure among workers.

Further research could help clarify why women in some occupations are more likely than are men to have high blood pressure and why health care support workers did not have lower blood pressure when their levels of job control were higher.