Horrible bosses really ARE bad for your health: Chronic stress can lead to heart disease and diabetes, experts warn
- Chronic stress causes changes in the gene activity in immune cells
- Changes cause the cells to be primed to fight infection that isn’t there
- This leads to inflammation in the body which is associated with many health problems, including heart disease and diabetes
Working for a difficult boss, such as Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep, in The Devil Wears Prada, can cause chronic stress which is bad for employees’ health in the long term
Working for a difficult boss can come with stress, long hours and a poor office atmosphere.
But new research has found it can also be bad for your health.
The stress of working for a bad boss over a long period of time can cause serious harm to employees, the study found.
The researchers found that chronic stress causes changes in the gene activity in immune cells.
These changes cause the cells to be primed to fight an infection that doesn’t exist.
This leads to inflammation in the body which is associated with many health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.
Scientists at Ohio State University, in the U.S., made this discovery while studying mice.
Their colleagues at other institutions also tested blood samples from people living in poor areas and found that similarly primed immune cells were present in these chronically stressed people.
‘The cells share many of the same characteristics in terms of their response to stress,’ said Dr John Sheridan, associate director of Ohio State University’s Institute for Behavioural Medicine Research, and co-lead author of the study.
‘There is a stress-induced alteration in the bone marrow in both our mouse model and in chronically stressed humans that selects for a cell that’s going to be pro-inflammatory.
‘So what this suggests is that if you’re working for a really bad boss over a long period of time, that experience may play out at the level of gene expression in your immune system.’
The findings suggest drugs acting on the central nervous system to treat mood disorders might be supplemented with medications targeting other parts of the body to protect against chronic stress.
The mind-body connection is well established, and research has confirmed stress is associated with health problems.
However, exactly how stress can harm health is still under investigation.
Dr Sheridan has been studying mice for a decade to reveal how chronic stress changes the brain and body in ways that affect behaviour and health.
To study this he repeatedly subjects the mice to stress and then tests their response.
He gives male mice living together time to establish a hierarchy, and then an aggressive male is added to the group for two hours at a time.
This elicits a ‘fight or flight’ response in the resident mice as they are repeatedly defeated by the intruder.
‘These mice are chronically in that state, so our research question is, “What happens when you stimulate the sympathetic nervous system over and over and over, or continuously?” We see deleterious consequences to that,’ Dr Sheridan said.
The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.