Stress, sleep trouble worsening for women

·2-min read

Work stress, sleep disorders, and fatigue, considered as non-traditional risk factors for heart attack and stroke, are rising more steeply in women than men, a study suggests.

Researchers compared data from 22,000 men and women in the Swiss Health Survey from 2007, 2012, and 2017 and found what they described as an alarming rise in the number of women reporting the non-traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

They suggest this trend coincided with an increase in the number of women working full time from 38 per cent in 2007 to 44 per cent in 2017.

In both men and women, the number of people reporting stress at work rose from 59 per cent in 2012 to 66 per cent in 2017.

While those reporting feeling tired and fatigued increased from 23 per cent to 29 per cent - to 33 per cent in women and 26 per cent in men.

During the same period, the number reporting sleep disorders increased from 24 per cent to 29 per cent, with severe sleep disorders also rising more sharply in women (eight per cent) than in men (five per cent), the researchers found.

However, the study also found the traditional risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease had remained stable in the same period.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of people had hypertension, 18 per cent with raised cholesterol and five per cent with diabetes.

Obesity increased to 11 per cent and smoking decreased from 10.5 to 9.5 cigarettes a day, but both were more prevalent in men.

The study authors were Dr Martin Hansel, neurologist at the University Hospital Zurich and Dr Susanne Wegener, professor of neurology at the University of Zurich.

"Our study found men were more likely to smoke and be obese than women, but females reported a bigger increase in the non-traditional risk factors for heart attacks and strokes, such as work stress, sleep disorders, and feeling tired and fatigued," the authors said.

"This increase coincides with the number of women working full time.

"These results underscore the fact that sex differences exist for non-traditional CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk factors with an alarming trend towards a particular increase in women."

The research was presented at the European Stroke Organisation Conference.

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