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Job strain and risk of drug abuse

Young workers who feel high stress on the job may be at increased risk of using drugs.

Job strain and risk of drug abuse

Young workers who feel high stress on the job may be at increased risk of using drugs. The following study found that those who reported high job strain when they were first interviewed for the study were more likely to have started abusing marijuana, cocaine, heroin or other drugs one year later. Previous studies have tied job strain to ill health effects such as heart disease and depression. High job strain is typically defined as work that is physically or mentally demanding but gives people little decision-making authority or freedom in how to get the work done. Since the study followed initially drug-free workers over time, the findings suggest that job strain preceded workers' drug problems - and not the other way around. Researchers from the Michigan State University did a survey of nearly 1,000 young adults. The one-year follow-up found that high job strain was tied to the risk of becoming drug dependent. But further analysis showed the risk was specifically related to low job control. Overall, almost 5 percent of the 985 workers were considered drug dependent at the one-year interview. Those who'd reported low job control at the initial assessment were two to three times more likely than workers with more control to become drug dependent. This is consistent with research that has found a higher risk of heart disease among employees with little control over their work. However, no conclusions can be drawn about why low job control is related to drug abuse. The researchers did take certain demographics - like education and parents' employment during childhood - into account. They also took measures of certain personality traits, such as the tendency to misbehave or take risks in childhood - factors that may influence both job choice and risk of drug use later in life. But none of these measures explained the link between job strain and drug dependence. More studies are, therefore, needed to figure out whether certain features of the workplace directly contribute to drug abuse.
American Journal of Epidemiology,
March 2006
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