Chronic work stress and exhaustion is associated with higher allostastic load in female school teachers.
Epidemiological studies have shown that chronic work stress or unfavourable psychosocial work conditions are prospectively associated with different adverse health outcomes. The aim of the present cross-sectional study was to investigate the relationship between work-related chronic stress as well as exhaustion and a cumulative measure of physiological wear-and-tear called allostastic load (AL). AL could be a possible biological pathway for how chronic work stress and exhaustion lead to health impairments in the long run. As the teaching profession has been proposed to be a potentially high stressful occupation, chronic work stress (effort-reward-imbalance) and exhaustion were assessed in 104 female school teachers. AL was first analyzed according to McEwen's classical model comprised of ten parameters including cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S), waist/hip-ratio (WHR), glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), total cholesterol/HDL-ratio, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Additionally it was extended to include tumor-necrosis-factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), C-reactive protein (CRP), fibrinogen, D-dimer, percent-body-fat, triglycerides, and glucose levels. A substantial proportion of our sample was highly exhausted whereas relatively few teachers showed high effort-reward-imbalance. AL scores were significantly higher in women high on effort-reward-imbalance or suffering from exhaustion. Although all teachers had been in a good health status, chronic work stress as well as exhaustion appears to be associated with changes in a multi-system summary indicator of physiological risk.