Job Worries Resulting in Asthma
Things are tough all over, financially speaking. With lingering fears since the most recent recession and plenty of economic woes in countries around the globe, many people have been experiencing some level of stress over job stability. After all, as much as you try to save, there always seems to be some other cost or payment coming up, and it feels like the price of everything is rising much faster than your paychecks increase. Worries over your job and whether you will still have it tomorrow can lead to lots of sleepless nights. What's more, new research has determined that this type of career-related stress may also result in the development of a potentially serious health concern: asthma.
The study, which was conducted in a joint venture between the University of Dusseldorf in Germany, the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Massey University in New Zealand, found that individuals who are afraid they will soon be unemployed have a 60 percent greater chance of being diagnosed with new-onset asthma than those who feel more secure at work.1 The subjects were more than 7,000 employed German adults who participated in the German Socio-Economic Panel study in 2009 and 2011.
During this two-year period, 105 cases of asthma were detected among the volunteers who had never previously suffered from this condition. The development of asthma was much more common among those who reported stress over the perception that they might lose their jobs. The researchers defined job insecurity as such situations as only being hired in a temporary position, contract employment, or working for companies that were downsizing. Those with job insecurity were diagnosed with asthma at a rate of 2.12 percent, versus only 1.3 percent among those who felt that their risk of losing their job was very low or nonexistent. When examined from another angle, the data showed that for each incremental rise of 25 percent in perceived belief of potential job loss a worker experienced, their risk of developing asthma was elevated by 24 percent.
The scientists controlled for a variety of factors that might affect asthma risk as well, including whether the subjects were smokers or overweight. Even after adjustments were made to the information collected to represent these influences, the outcome still maintained a strong link between job stress and a higher risk of asthma in adults. In addition, the large population sample included lends further credence to the results. And, while this may be the first research to determine a specific association between employment-related stress and asthma, these findings are in line with earlier studies that provided evidence that stress in general may be a precipitating factor in becoming asthmatic. A 2012 study at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark determined that elevated stress levels double the risk of adult-onset asthma.2
Asthma is a potentially serious respiratory disease, characterized by wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing, and its prevalence is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, the number of asthma sufferers in the U.S. has hit unprecedented levels, affecting close to one in every 12 Americans. And it makes sense that stress could be involved in producing asthma in adults who never had the condition in their youth. In fact, there are many connections between asthma and stress. Uncontrolled emotions can cause constriction of muscles, including the smooth muscles of the airways in the lungs. They tighten up and constrict, which can worsen wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness in people with asthma. But more than that, stress can create strong physiological reactions that lead to airway constriction and changes in the immune system, which can worsen asthma symptoms. First, stress and anxiety can trigger the release of chemicals, such as histamine and leukotrienes, which can cause inflammation, thus narrowing your airways. Stress also triggers the release of peptides, higher levels of which are found in individuals diagnosed with asthma. The increase of peptides triggers a response in the airways, increasing mucus production, swelling and inflammation that also causes narrowed airways.
Ultimately, we have no control over what's going on in the economy and not much control over our own job security. That means that we need to be smarter about handling stress if we can't avoid it. Exercising daily and making sure you get enough sleep are two proven methods for relieving stress. And for those who are asthmatic, take steps to make sure you don't trigger an attack. Try to limit your dependence on inhaled corticosteroids by managing your stress well, avoiding allergens that set off symptoms, and optimizing your immunity with natural lifestyle changes such as those in the Baseline of Health approach, and supplementing with systemic, proteolytic enzymes to control inflammation and mucous.
- 1. Owen, Jonathan. "Stress at work increases risk of developing asthma, according to major new research." The Independent. 23 September 2014. Accessed 30 September 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/stress-at-work-increases-risk-of-developing-asthma-according-to-major-new-research-9749239.html
- 2. Rod, N.H.; et al. "Perceived stress and risk of adult-onset asthma and other atopic disorders: a longitudinal cohort study." Allergy. 3 September 2012. Accessed 1 October 2014. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1398-9995.2012.02882.x./abstract