Workers who regularly suffer from prolonged stress are 20% more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat
People who suffer from burnout after working long hours have a greater risk of experiencing irregular heartbeat.
Researchers from the University of Southern California spent 25 years monitoring the health of 11,000 individuals to examine the progressive impact of work-related stress.
The team learned those who regularly suffered from burnout, or stress and exhaustion, were 20% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation when they got older.
Atrial fibrillation is characterised by an irregular or abnormal beating of the heart, also known as arrhythmia. If left untreated, the condition can lead sufferers to experience blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
The World Health Organization classifies burnout as a disease and defines it as chronic workplace stress that is not successfully managed by sufferers. Those who are burnt out often feel exhausted and demotivated at work.
In their study, the USC researchers said exhaustion triggers inflammation in the body and causes people to become more susceptible to stress.
The resulting strain from these factors purportedly makes it difficult for the heart to properly pump blood throughout the body, eventually leading to atrial fibrillation.
Some have suggested psychological stress could also be a potential contributing factor to having an irregular heartbeat. However, it is still unclear whether there is a direct connection between the two since earlier studies have yielded mixed results to establish a relationship.
The USC study is considered the first of its kind to explore a specific link between burnout and atrial fibrillation. The findings could help shed light on serious heart conditions, which currently affect six million people in the US and about one million people in the UK.