Unfair Treatment on the Job? Silence Harmful
Men Who Keep Quiet About Unfair Treatment in the Workplace May Have Increased Heart Risks
Nov. 23, 2009 -- Bosses don’t like whiners, but men who silently cope with
perceived unfair treatment may have increased risk for future heart
attack or death from heart disease, a new
Researchers led by Constanze Leineweber, PhD, of Stockholm University, and
colleagues report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
that men who most often keep silent about unfair treatment on the job have an
increased risk of having a heart attack or
They base their findings on workplaces in Stockholm participating in the
Work, Lipids and Fibrinogen Stockholm study and 2,755 male employees who hadn’t
had a heart attack when the study began in 1992-1995.
The initial screen included an assessment of risk factors, such as high cholesterol
blood pressure and general lifestyle, and evaluation of the men’s means of
coping with unfair treatment on the job.
Details of whether any of the subjects later had a heart attack or died as a
result of heart disease up to the year 2003 were gathered from national
registers of hospital treatment and deaths.
Up to that year, 47 men had a heart attack or died of heart disease, the
Covert coping was linked to greater risk of heart attack or cardiac death by
the end of the study period. Examples of covert coping would be letting things
pass without saying anything or walking away when faced with unfair treatment
on the job. On the other hand, open coping would be confronting the person or
protesting the unfair treatment.
The researchers write that men “with less consistent patterns of covert
coping” had lower risk for death and heart disease.
“The authors believe that the observed association is real rather than
attributable to chance,” they write. “If the association between covert coping
and increased heart disease is indeed causal, then avoidance of covert coping
may lead to health benefits; and other studies additionally suggest that low
exposure to unfair treatment may also reduce risk of coronary heart disease
incidence and cardiovascular mortality.”
The researchers concede they have no answer “to the question of what might
be a particularly healthy coping strategy” for workers who feel they are